The Arizona House’s Health and Human Services Committee met on Feb. 16th to discuss House Bill 2624 as it relates to Medicaid redeterminations. The bill would require the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) to complete Medicaid redeterminations for all members by Dec. 31st, 2023, and remove individuals who were not determined to be eligible.
This spring, Medicaid redeterminations will take place in Arizona for the first time in three years. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal public health emergency’s continuous coverage provision has kept members from being dropped from Medicaid—even if they became ineligible due to changes in income.
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Bill sponsor Rep. Leo Biasiucci (R – Gilbert) stated that about 600,000 individuals on AHCCCS will no longer qualify, and that ineligible members need to be removed swiftly as their continued Medicaid coverage costs the state about $5 million per month.
Sam Adolfson, a visiting fellow at the Opportunity Solutions Project, brought up how he has worked with other states across the country, some of which are completing redeterminations in shorter time frames, such as three to six months. He noted there has been no change to Medicaid eligibility criteria, but that this process will disenroll ineligible members from the program.
Willa Murphy of AHCCCS provided some context, stating that over 2.4 million members will undergo a redetermination, with disenrollment prepared to start on April 1st. She noted the potential consequences of shortening the 12-month redetermination window in Arizona.
“By condensing the redetermination window from 12 months, as currently planned, to nine months—this would require additional eligibility staff in order to meet the deadline,” Murphy said. “There is a potential ongoing impact because of the annual redeterminations cycle, so it may create a redetermination surge moving forward as a result of this window narrowing.”
The estimated preliminary increase in staffing levels needed for AHCCCS eligibility redeterminations is 33%, which would cost approximately $16,700,000 from the general fund, and $47,700,000 from the total fund, according to Murphy.
Jennifer Carusetta, vice president of public affairs and advocacy for Phoenix Children’s Hospital, provided public testimony in opposition to this bill. Her greatest concern is having children with complex medical needs and children experiencing crises undergo a lapse in care due to redeterminations being conducted on a condensed timeline.
“Time matters for these kids. Time matters for these families,” Carusetta said. “When you are going through a redetermination process, you are going to be notified that you owe AHCCCS information. We want to make sure that these families get AHCCCS that information.”
Carusetta said she is supportive of the original redeterminations timeline, and that she is concerned about potential confusion with mixed deadlines, and the potential for individuals to be dropped from coverage due to a rushed process.
“We are concerned about families who do not have adequate time to identify a network of providers to meet children’s complex medical needs,” Carusetta said.
Drew Schaffer of the William E. Morris Institute for Justice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of low-income Arizonans, also testified in opposition and stated that AHCCCS has never attempted something of this magnitude before.
“What we see here with House Bill 2624 is an unnecessary acceleration of a plan that has been thoughtfully put in place for a long time,” Schaffer said.
Schaffer’s concerns included the 600,000 estimate of individuals who do not qualify is only an estimate, and mentioned how there is still a large portion of individuals who have no contact with AHCCCS and cannot ascertain eligibility.
The committee approved the bill by a narrow vote of 5-4. The Arizona House’s Rules Committee is hearing the bill on Feb. 27th for further determination.