Iowa to reevaluate residents’ Medicaid eligibility

Iowans on Medicaid during the COVID-19 pandemic may no longer be eligible for relief as the federal government removes the continuous coverage requirement from the program.


Matt Sindt

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is seen in Iowa City on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023.

Jack Moore, News Reporter

Iowan Medicaid users may have their health benefits removed as program eligibility is going to be re-examined in April.

The re-examination comes after the federal government removed the requirement that states are to provide continuous Medicaid coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal government data from November 2022 shows that almost 85 million people are enrolled in Medicaid. However, millions of people who use Medicaid may be taken off the program as the U.S. begins reassessing eligibility.

During the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the federal government identified COVID-19 as a public health emergency, which led the federal government to enact a continuous coverage requirement for Medicaid. The requirement will end on April 1.

As a result, states like Iowa are revisiting people’s eligibility for Medicaid. Director of University of Iowa Health Policy Research Peter Damiano said there are essentially three scenarios in which people currently on Medicaid may find themselves.

First, the person is still eligible and will continue to stay on Medicaid. Second, a person is no longer suitable but has insurance through another source. Or third, which Damiano said is the most concerning, is that people will no longer qualify and won’t have the resources to get insurance elsewhere.

It remains unclear how many people will be in the third category of Medicaid recipients. However, Damiano said the estimates are around 15 million people nationally.

In an audit of the state Board of Regents for Iowa, the UI Hospitals and Clinics reported Medicaid accounted for nearly 20 percent of its revenue for 2022.

RELATED: State Board of Regents cancel contract negotiation meetings with UIHC health care professionals union

Damiano said his concern is that people are less likely to go to the hospital if they are uninsured, which can lead to greater health complications and increased costs.

“It might be more expensive to take care of something because [patients] are going to put off preventive care,” Damiano said. “They may put off some condition that might have been easier to treat sooner, so those costs are gonna have to be picked up from somewhere.”

Damiano said some people taken off Medicaid may still be eligible for health insurance or subsidized health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace,  a government website where people can enter their information and view their eligibility for healthcare programs and related subsidies.

“It’s a sliding scale in terms of what the subsidy would be, and the website kind of walks you through all of that. So it’s something that’s really important for the people that could be losing their health insurance coverage for this, to know that it exists,” he said.

Above all, Damiano said he wants people to know the importance of community in this situation and that this situation impacts everyone.

“I think it’s important this idea that we are all in this together, in terms of, you know, this could be somebody’s grandmother, this could be somebody’s mom, this could be themselves,” he said. “There are a lot of people who rely on Medicaid coverage for their health insurance.”

UIHC is also preparing for the results of the eligibility re-examination. Laura Shoemaker, the public relations manager for UIHC, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that the hospital is taking steps UIHC to let patients know they may no longer be eligible for Medicaid.

“We have been working to make sure our patients are aware of upcoming Medicaid enrollment changes and are directing them to contact Iowa Department of Health and Human Services for more information,” Shoemaker wrote.

In addition, Shoemaker stated that UIHC posted a message to the top of their website about the change and at the bottom of the financial resources page.

Other local health institutions are also looking to inform users of the change. Mercy Hospital Foundation President Lisa Steigleder wrote in an email to the DI that the impact on patients remains unclear as the continuous enrollment provision ends.

“While we may have no way of knowing how many of our patients might be affected when the Medicaid continuous enrollment provision ends, it will not interfere with their ability to receive care from Mercy Iowa City,” Steigleder wrote.

Steigleder added Mercy prides itself on helping patients and will continue to do so following the eligibility changes.

“Mercy Iowa City has a 150-year history of caring for all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. We encourage those who need health care and are struggling financially to apply for financial assistance with us,” she wrote.