Gunnison County residents on Medicaid health insurance could be dropped starting in April

Opportunity to find coverage while doing state taxes

By Mark Reaman

Thousands of people living in Gunnison County that depend on Medicaid for health insurance coverage could be dropped as the result of recent federal and state action. But those people will have an opportunity to find their way onto health coverage under the Affordable Care Act if they act relatively soon. If you are on Medicaid, be sure to look for a mail notice informing you of your status and, when you complete your Colorado income tax return, make sure to check the appropriate box so the state is made aware you might need health care coverage.

Over the last three years because of the COVID pandemic, states including Colorado stopped double-checking if people enrolled in Medicaid were eligible for coverage. If you were enrolled in Medicaid in March, 2020, or you became eligible anytime during the pandemic, you remained eligible—even if your income qualifications changed in such a way as to render you ineligible for the program.

But that “continuous coverage” provision, which was put in place for the pandemic, will end next month with states beginning to review all Medicaid enrollees’ eligibility starting April 1. They will at that time begin ending coverage for those found ineligible. After that, states will again be verifying every Medicaid participant’s eligibility. That could result in millions of people across the country being dropped from the program. More than 1.7 million people in Colorado are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. It is estimated up to 4,000 people in Gunnison County are currently on Medicaid.

There are two separate opportunities for a special enrollment. The first is through Medicaid redetermination and the second is through the Colorado tax-time enrollment. You can either enroll once you receive the Medicaid redetermination in the mail  or, anyone who is eligible for tax credits but not necessarily for Medicaid can mark the appropriate box on the state tax return form.

Local insurance provider Gary Shondeck of Shondeck Financial Services and Insurance said that the situation is not at all perfect, but there is opportunity to avoid a health insurance lapse. “When an individual is doing their state taxes for Colorado there is a box that they must check,” he explained. “If they are eligible for a tax credit, it will generate a letter to those individuals. That letter will then create a Special Enrollment Period for them to go and get coverage. They must apply for coverage within 60 days of receiving the letter.”

Shondeck said the analysis for Medicaid eligibility is already underway and individuals and families currently on Medicaid will be getting a new determination from the state’s public health department. “They will receive a letter telling them that their coverages are going to end. That creates an involuntary loss of coverage and that kicks in a Special Enrollment Period. From there they need to enroll within the 60 days. Some people may be qualified to remain on Medicaid so they need to pay close attention to their mail,” Shondeck said.

Shondeck’s advice for anyone on Medicaid in Gunnison County is to be aware. “Pay attention to any correspondence that comes from the State of Colorado and Medicaid. They will be notified,” he emphasized. “If they don’t receive anything they should call the Gunnison County Health and Human Services office in Gunnison or the state directly. We can also help them to get enrolled into qualified Affordable Care Plans. We do not charge any fees and they get professional advice on the plans and service if they need it for the day-to-day issues that come up.”

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