Medicaid says 50,000 beneficiaries removed from rolls

Published 6:26 pm Friday, September 29, 2006

Medicaid says 50,000 beneficiaries removed from rolls

JACKSON (AP) — About 50,000 Mississippians no longer receive Medicaid benefits after being eliminated through a face-to-face recertification process, officials say.

Medicaid executive director Bob Robinson told the Joint Legislative Budget Committee on Thursday that most of those taken off the rolls between fiscal years 2005 and 2006 didn’t meet eligibility requirements. The period started July 1, 2004, and ended June 30, 2006.

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Some social activists, many of whom attended Medicaid’s hearing before the Budget Committee, said thousands of Mississippi’s children have been left uninsured by the recertification process, mainly because parents are unable to travel to offices for the annual meetings.

Medicaid officials said about 4,000 children are no longer receiving benefits from the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which receives federal money to operate. Medicaid officials said they didn’t have an exact figure on how many children have been taken off Medicaid.

Judy Barber of the advocacy group Children’s Health Matters said a total of 55,000 children lost benefits from CHIP and Medicaid between January 2005 and June 2006.

The figure is based on Medicaid’s monthly enrollment totals — data the department released as a result of a public information request, said Pam Shaw, an attorney who works with the Children’s Defense Fund.

Shaw said advocacy groups will ask lawmakers next session to change the process, which she says requires people to travel to one of Medicaid’s 30 regional offices to be recertified.

“We want a fair, accessible process for parents to be able to provide health care to their children. We don’t want children penalized,” said Shaw.

Medicaid mails out notices to beneficiaries a month before their benefits expire to schedule a face-to-face appointment, said Betty Williams, a Medicaid deputy administrator. If the beneficiary doesn’t respond, a second notice is sent telling the person the case will be closed.

Williams said Mississippi is among about 10 states that require the face-to-face meetings.

Rep. Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, said he is concerned that some of the people who no longer receive benefits may not have received notification about their recertification, especially if they’ve moved to another address.

“People may not respond for a number of reasons,” Watson said. “I don’t think what we want to do is get eligible people off the rolls.”

Robinson told lawmakers that the reduction in beneficiaries, the limits in prescription drug benefits and the new federal Medicare changes have helped hold down costs in Medicaid, which serves about 748,000 of the state’s underprivileged, or nearly a quarter of the state’s population.

Medicaid officials on Thursday asked lawmakers to maintain $569.7 million in state funding for the program in fiscal year 2008, which begins July 1. That is the same amount that was appropriated for Medicaid in the current fiscal year, but it includes about $317 million in one-time funding.

Medicaid is among several agencies that appeared before the Budget Committee over the past two weeks making a pitch for funding. The Budget Committee will use the information to draw up a spending recommendation for lawmakers who return to the Capitol in January to adopt Mississippi’s budget for 2008.