As Pandemic Ebbs, Fears Grow That Ohioans Will Be Improperly Forced Off of Medicaid

As the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, thousands of Ohioans will be hustled off of Medicaid.

Ohio’s Medicaid roles grew by 20.5% between March 2020 and March 2022. - Photo: AdobeStock
Photo: AdobeStock
Ohio’s Medicaid roles grew by 20.5% between March 2020 and March 2022.

Ohioans are no doubt greatly relieved that the coronavirus pandemic appears to be winding down — and taking with it the sickness, death and inconvenience of the past two years.

But as it does, thousands of Ohioans will be hustled off of Medicaid, the health program for the poor and disabled. And it’s unclear what remedies they’ll have if they’re taken off the program improperly.

In March 2020, as the pandemic gripped the country and no vaccines were available, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Among its other provisions, it prohibited states from taking people off their Medicaid rolls unless they moved out of state or asked to be removed.

As a consequence, Ohio’s Medicaid roles grew by 20.5% between March 2020 and March 2022, according to the NBC News reported in December. The state budget appropriated $35 million for the job and the Medicaid department will pay Boston-based Public Consulting Group 10%-20% of the money that is saved by declaring Medicaid recipients ineligible, the news organization reported.

So is that an incentive for the consultant to push as many Ohioans as possible off of the Medicaid roles without checking too carefully whether they’re really ineligible? Numerous experts have pointed out that people whose lives have been upended by the pandemic — and by poverty and housing insecurity more generally — find it harder to maintain contact with health authorities and clear the bureaucratic hurdles to stay on Medicaid.

The Ohio Department of Medicaid didn’t respond last week when asked what it was doing to make sure county-level officials are working with Medicaid enrollees to ensure those still eligible retain their benefits. It also didn’t respond to a question asking whether Public Consulting Group would face any penalties for incorrectly declaring Medicaid clients ineligible.

Public Consulting Group also didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Ohio Rep. Thomas West of Canton is ranking Democratic member of the state’s Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee. In this month’s press conference, he said the committee is looking into how the enrollment-evaluation process will be handled.

“We’re waiting for answers around the redetermination process and what Medicaid is going to do along these lines to ensure that Ohioans will be protected,” he said.

This story was originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.

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