Alabama Medicaid enrollment increases as pandemic requirement continues

Alabama Medicaid enrollment increases as pandemic requirement continues

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Alabama Medicaid enrollment has grown as the program continues to operate under a federal requirement that people can’t be unenrolled because of changes in their income or other eligibility factors.

In early 2020, in response to COVID-19, the federal government increased states’ Medicaid funding, but said people already enrolled or enrolled during the pandemic couldn’t be removed.

The requirement was renewed last week for the eighth time. It is expected to end later this year, Alabama Medicaid spokeswoman Melanie Cleveland told Alabama Daily News.

Once the end of the public health emergency is announced, Alabama Medicaid will begin the process of evaluating current enrollees for possible continued coverage, Cleveland said.

Medicaid enrollment was 1.25 million in February, the latest month available. That’s up from 1.15 million in February 2021 and 1.05 million prior to the pandemic.

Children are the largest group of enrollees in the health care program for the low-income and disabled. Alabama’s restrictions on Medicaid enrollment allow for very few able-bodied adults on the rolls, so COVID-caused spikes in unemployment don’t translate into large numbers of adults now receiving Medicaid, officials previously said.

To qualify for Medicaid, a family of four has to earn $40,524 or less per year.

Prior to COVID-19, the federal government paid about 72% of Alabama Medicaid’s expenses. In response to the pandemic, that amount was increased to about 78%.

State leaders have said the increased federal funding takes the burden of expanded enrollment off the state’s shoulders.

Medicaid’s 2023 General Fund allocation is $793 million, up about $23.7 million from the current fiscal year.

The only way recipients can now come off of Medicaid is if they die, move out of state or voluntarily remove themselves. But recipients do have to submit annual renewal forms.

“It is vital that all Medicaid recipients provide current mailing addresses and other contact information to our agency to ensure they receive their notice of when they need to complete their Medicaid renewal form,” Cleveland said.

Enrollees can update their information a variety of ways listed at www.medicaid.alabama.gov or by calling 1 (800) 362-1504.