By Catherine Candisky
About 61,000 Ohioans will lose their tax-funded health coverage at the end of this week.
Ohio Medicaid Director John McCarthy said yesterday that the Medicaid recipients will be removed from the rolls on Saturday for failing to verify household income as required under federal guidelines.
McCarthy said it's not yet clear how many are no longer eligible for coverage because of increased earnings or how many simply neglected to return the required paperwork mailed by the state.
But many may be surprised, as 25 to 30 percent of renewal packets were returned as undeliverable, raising concerns about faulty address labels and other issues.
"It will be a mixed bag," McCarthy said after testifying before a House subcommittee about changes to the Medicaid program proposed in Gov. John Kasich's state budget plan.
The federal government requires states to verify income each year to ensure that Medicaid recipients still qualify for coverage, although the re-authorization process was suspended last year because of the rollout of the new federal health-care law and start-up of a new computerized eligibility system in Ohio.
At the beginning of the month, an estimated 107,000 were poised to lose coverage, but McCarthy said more people have submitted the required paperwork as the deadline approaches.
McCarthy noted that anyone who is disenrolled but still eligible can turn in the required paperwork within 60 days and have their coverage retroactively reinstated. After that, people may reapply, but there will be a gap in their coverage.
The latest disenrollment figures came as McCarthy gave lawmakers the clearest picture yet of the nearly 500,000 Ohioans who gained health coverage since Kasich expanded Medicaid last year. The new beneficiaries -- a third more than expected -- pushed overall Medicaid enrollment to nearly 3 million, or more than 1 in 4 Ohioans.
McCarthy said preliminary data show that many new enrollees have critical health needs, particularly for behavioral-health services.
Slightly more than half of the new enrollees were men and half had no income. Eighty-two percent have filed claims, indicating they have received medical care since gaining coverage.
Three-fourths have a chronic clinical condition, including 5 percent who are being treated for cancer. About a third were treated for behavioral-health issues, including mental health and addiction.
McCarthy said the ailments might explain why so many are not working.
"At some point when you have cancer, it is difficult to work. If you are going through chemotherapy, it is difficult to work, or if you are having surgery, it is difficult to work," he said.
However, addressing those health-care needs could help many back on their feet, he added.
Expanding eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level primarily benefitted adults without dependent children earning up to about $16,000 a year. The program already covered children, parents, the elderly and disabled up to that level.
(c)2015 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)