Covered or not? A look into Alaska’s upcoming Medicaid redetermination

The reassessment window for recipients under Alaska’s Medicaid program is coming up once the extended federal public health emergency (PHE) concludes. Following the end of the PHE, which could come as early as Jan. 16 if it isn’t extended again, state Medicaid agencies will have 12 months to reassess enrollees’ eligibility for coverage under the program. 

 

Get the latest state-specific policy intelligence for the health care sector delivered to your inbox.

 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), over 80 million individuals are currently enrolled in Medicaid and nearly 9.9 million new members enrolled for coverage between Feb. 2020 and Jan. 2021. 

Medicaid recipients in the state and across the country are protected from disenrollment thanks to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, an effort put in place during the Trump administration. This protection, however, will end following the conclusion of the PHE. 

In Alaska, Medicaid enrollments saw significant rises in the months leading up to and during the pandemic. 

Data from Medicaid.gov lists Alaska’s total enrollment at 206,251 for Feb. 2020. This number jumps to 217,484 in June 2020, and to 228,118 by Jan. 2021. According to Shawnda O’Brien, the director of Public Assistance at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), the number of Medicaid enrollments in Sept. 2021 was 260,000. 

When asked about the number of Medicaid recipients who may need their eligibility reassessed at the end of the PHE, O’Brien said she was unsure. 

She explained that her department and DHSS as a whole has strategies to make the reassessment process for Alaska Medicaid recipients as smooth as possible. 

“Our existing process is to notice individuals [when redetermination starts]. The time period is coming because [the PHE] is about to expire, and [Medicaid recipients] need to provide information to recertify their eligibility.”

In some instances, previously eligible citizens will go through the reassessment process and find out that they’re now ineligible. DHSS plans to inform current recipients of their options following disenrollment. 

O’Brien said:

“We will be working with some of our partners and community stakeholders to make sure that there are opportunities for people to become familiar with other coverage options in the event that they are determined to be ineligible so that there’s a referral either to the marketplace or to other sources of coverage.”

She stated that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has been in discussion with states to help initiate some of these referral options and has helped folks navigate any services they can take advantage of beyond what Medicaid offers. 

“In the months to come, we’ll get more information from CMS about how we can partner with them better and how they can assist us in doing some of [the referrals] in advance of the determination on the eligibility side.”