When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the nation in 2020, the federal government declared a public health emergency (PHE) and enacted relief legislation that gave states additional Medicaid funding, but also required states to continuously cover nearly all beneficiaries for the duration of the emergency. That continuous coverage requirement ended on March 31, 2023, leaving states with the enormous task of making sure those who are eligible can keep their insurance during the ‘unwinding’ process of reassessing eligibility and renewing coverage.
For New York State that means reassessing eligibility and renewing coverage for more than nine million New Yorkers enrolled in Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan—almost 50 percent of the state’s population. The New York State Department of Health has embarked on a multi-faceted effort to ensure continued coverage for all New Yorkers who remain eligible, and outlined those plans at a recent hybrid event hosted by United Hospital Fund.
More than 50 people attended the meeting in person, and another 440 attended virtually, including government officials, health plan representatives, provider groups, consumer advocates, and funders.
New York State Medicaid Director Amir Bassiri gave the opening context and charge, telling attendees that since the PHE took effect, mainstream Medicaid managed care alone grew by over 1.6 million members. He expects that the unwinding will end up increasing the number of uninsured New Yorkers by 100,000, an unfortunate outcome but still, he said, less than any other state.
Communication and collaboration with providers, members, and advocacy groups will be key to re-enrolling as many people as possible, Mr. Bassiri said. He outlined several actions the state plans to take, including disseminating information to all stakeholders, emphasizing that they should “pass it on,” and increasing the number of NY State of Health (NYSOH) health plan marketplace representatives and assistors.
“It is our top priority to reinstate eligibility reviews in a way that retains coverage for as many enrollees as possible and limits coverage gaps for those most dependent on these services,” he said.
Danielle Holahan, executive director of NYSOH, outlined the broad unwinding requirements and challenges, noting the need for increased staffing at the NY State of Health Customer Service Center and local districts to meet anticipated volume increases. It will also launch extensive education and outreach campaigns.
Lisa Sbrana, director, Division of Eligibility and Marketplace Integration, outlined a number of activities the agency has already undertaken to smooth re-enrollments, including convening some 1,000 internal meetings, 750 stakeholder meetings, a briefing with the state’s congressional delegation, and meetings and calls with other states.
Also speaking for NYS DOH at the meeting were Jonathan Bick, director, Division of Health Plan Contracting and Oversight; Sonia Sekhar, deputy director, NY State of Health; and Marci Goldstein, director of communications, NY State of Health.
“I’m so glad UHF could host this timely event,” said Oxiris Barbot, MD, UHF’s president and CEO. “It was informative and heartening to learn more about this massive undertaking and about the collective commitment to minimize the number of New Yorkers who lose coverage because of renewal requirements.”
The materials presented at the meeting are available for download here.