Amidst the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government implemented measures to facilitate the enrollment and retention of Medicaid for low-income Americans. However, these protective measures expired last year, resulting in a surge of disenrollment, with Texas emerging as the national leader in this trend.
Nearly 1.7 million individuals have lost their health insurance. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, responsible for the removal process, cited procedural reasons for approximately 65% of the removals.
Most disturbingly, Texas also ranks first in the number of children disenrolled. Almost 70 percent of Texans who lost coverage since May are minors.
During the pandemic, more than 5 million Texans had continuous access to healthcare through Medicaid. However, the rapid implementation of the unwinding process has led to errors, removing both eligible and ineligible individuals and creating backlogs in the processing of Medicaid and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) applications, as first reported by The Texas Tribune.
As of Dec. 8, there were over 207,000 SNAP applications and nearly 289,000 Medicaid applications waiting to be processed. Delays and errors in the unwinding process have added to the burden, affecting both healthcare and food assistance programs, according to HHSC spokesperson Tiffany Young.
For U.S. Rep. Lloyd Dogett, a Democrat from Austin, the problem is the state’s “incompetence and indifference to poor people.” He told The Texas Tribune that it was “really appalling,” and called for changes in the process.
In response to the challenges, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission plans to allocate additional staff to process applications, with 250 eligibility staff reassigned from other projects. However, critics argue that more systemic changes are needed to address the underlying issues in the Medicaid renewal process.
As the state completes the unwinding of Medicaid coverage for a significant number of individuals, advocates call for a reevaluation of the system. The focus shifts from unwinding to how Texas will effectively manage and run its Medicaid program.