News Briefs

Missouri has enrolled 4,300 people in expanded Medicaid program

By: - October 7, 2021 12:33 pm
Medicaid expansion rally

Demonstrators stand outside of the Governor’s Mansion in Jefferson City on July 1, 2021 and hold signs urging Gov. Mike Parson to fund voter-approved Medicaid expansion (Photo by Tessa Weinberg/Missouri Independent).

Roughly 4,300 Missourians eligible for health care under Medicaid expansion have been enrolled, a top Missouri Medicaid official said Thursday.

That figure represents a little over a quarter of the more than 17,000 applications the state has received since it began accepting applications for Medicaid expansion coverage in August, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in a news release Monday.

Kirk Mathews, the chief transformation officer within MO HealthNet, Missouri’s Medicaid program, told lawmakers during a Senate Interim Committee on Medicaid Accountability and Taxpayer Protection hearing Thursday that the 4,300 figure was as of two days ago, with pending applications still being evaluated.

The first application processed for an individual from the Medicaid expansion population occurred at 6:45 a.m. on Friday, Matthews said. He said he did not know how quickly applications would be processed, noting the state has up to 45 days to determine eligibility on applications.

Advocates and attorneys for plaintiffs who sued the state to force it to implement Medicaid expansion have been keeping a close eye on whether applications would begin to be processed starting Friday, Oct. 1 as the state said it would.

Despite a Cole County judge’s August ruling that eligible residents must be permitted to enroll, the Department of Social Services (DSS) said it would need two months to make necessary system updates and train staff.

Applications for coverage under Medicaid expansion that were submitted after July 1 — the date Medicaid expansion was initially slated to go into effect — were denied, kept in a queue and are “being re-evaluated for their eligibility determination now,” Matthews said.

A Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that Missouri began processing applications Oct. 1 and is making eligibility determinations for Medicaid expansion applicants.

A DSS spokeswoman said Thursday that enrollment figures will start to be published in a monthly report that is expected to be released in November.

The state will also be eligible to draw down an estimated $968 million in federal funds for its Medicaid program over the next two years through the American Rescue Plan, according to the news release.

Approximately 275,000 Missourians are eligible for healthcare under Medicaid expansion. In the weeks leading up to Oct. 1, advocates have been working to help eligible residents sign up.

​​Under Medicaid expansion, adults aged 19 to 64 are eligible if their household incomes are 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline or less. That translates to $17,774 a year for a single person or $36,570 for a family of four.

President Joe Biden’s administration celebrated the launch of Medicaid expansion in Missouri and pointed to it as a jumping off point from which it would press other states to expand.

“This is a win for all Missourians who have fought long and hard to gain their rightful access to quality health insurance made possible through the Affordable Care Act,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement Monday. “As we celebrate Missouri’s Medicaid expansion, the Biden-Harris Administration will double down on our outreach efforts to urge the remaining twelve states to join the rest of the nation in ensuring access to health care during this critical time.”

When asked what comes next with Medicaid expansion enrollment, Matthews said the next few months will bring the unknown.

“​We don’t know how rapid the take up will be, where those numbers will settle in,” Matthews said. “But that’s where we are to date.”

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Tessa Weinberg
Tessa Weinberg

Tessa Weinberg covered education, health care and the legislature with the Missouri Independent. She previously covered the Missouri statehouse for The Kansas City Star and The Columbia Missourian, where her reporting into social media use by the governor prompted an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. She also covered state government in Texas for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.