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State urges Medicaid recipients to renew enrollment

Pennsylvania Insurance Department Policy Director Katie Merritt speaks to a group on Wednesday, July 12, at an event held on Wednesday at Butler Memorial Hospital. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

The 34,000 county residents and the rest of the 3.7 million other state residents enrolled in the federal Medicaid health insurance program should complete and submit their eligibility renewal applications this year due to changes in the program, state officials said Wednesday.

Department of Human Services Secretary Val Arkoosh and Insurance Department policy director Katie Merritt visited Butler Memorial Hospital to call upon staff and other health care providers to urge their Medicaid patients to renew their program applications because of the changes.

“It will take all of you to protect access to care through Medicaid,” Arkoosh said. “Let everyone know.”

The changes are the result of the end of expanded program eligibility that was put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal public health emergency in response to the pandemic allowed for most individuals to remain enrolled in Medicaid even if they became ineligible in what was dubbed the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement.

A federal law ended the continuous coverage requirement on March 31. Now, all residents receiving insurance through Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program must once again complete their annual renewal when it is due to determine if they are still eligible for coverage. No one will lose Medicaid or CHIP coverage without first having an opportunity to renew their coverage or update their information., according to the human services department.

“DHS knows this is going to be a big change,” Arkoosh said.

She said the eligibility process will return to they way it was before the pandemic.

Medicaid recipients will receive their renewal packages in the mail from the human services department 90 days before their current enrollment expires at various times this year, Arkoosh said.

Renewals will be completed through April 2024, usually at a person’s normal time of renewal.

In the meantime, recipients can update their contact information on the department website DHS.PA.GOV/COMPASS to make sure the renewal packages are mailed to the correct address, she said.

County Commissioner Kevin Boozel said some county residents do not have internet access.

Arkoosh said those residents can call the department and staff with guide them through the process, or call or visit the county assistance office for help. The department can be reached at 1-877-395-8930.

She said most Medicaid recipients have smartphones that they can use to update their information by using the free myCOMPASS PA app.

Residents found not to be eligible for continued Medicaid coverage will be automatically referred to other health care programs such as the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicare and Pennie, she said. Pennie is the state’s official health coverage marketplace and offers financial assistance to help lower the cost of coverage and care for qualified residents.

Merritt said nine out of every 10 people who seek insurance through Pennie are eligible for the financial assistance, which can result in monthly insurance rates as low as $10.

“Insurance is really not a luxury. It’s a necessity,” Merritt said.

She also advises residents not to be taken in by scams that offer cheap insurance with fewer benefits than the insurance available through Pennie.

“Scammers are rampant right now due to the transition,” Merritt said.

This story is shared with you as a digital media exclusive. Please consider supporting our local, independent newsroom by subscribing at butlereagle.com.

Pennsylvania Insurance Department Policy Director Katie Merritt talks on Wednesday, July 12, at an event held on Wednesday at Butler Memorial Hospital. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
DHS Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh speaks at an event held Wednesday, July 12, at Butler Memorial Hospital. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
DHS Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh speaks at an event held Wednesday, July 12, at Butler Memorial Hospital. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
From left, President of Butler Memorial and Clarion Hospital Karen Allen, Chief Community Health Officer Dr. Kathy Selvaggi and DHS Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh talk together before a speaking engagement Wednesday, July 12, at Butler Memorial Hospital. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

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