While millions of people across the nation may lose their Medicaid coverage, in Rhode Island, our goal is to keep people insured, and to remain a state with one of the highest insured rates in the country. The Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Department of Human Services, and HealthSource RI are working together to make that happen.
In the past year, we’ve readied Medicaid members for their renewals. We’ve enhanced the HealthyRhode mobile app, making it easier to manage benefits. We’ve created a website — staycovered.ri.gov — with information in more than 10 languages. We’ve created a secure Medicaid renewal lookup portal where members can find their anticipated renewal date. We’ve opened a document scanning center in Providence where members can upload documents quickly, and added a call-back feature on our customer service line as an additional means of access.
Preparation has also included stressing the importance of updating contact information. Our teams check and update addresses wherever possible. When we find outdated addresses, we use text messaging and emails to try to reach members, urging them to update their information. This effort, paired with the targeted outreach being done by our managed care organization partners, has led to members receiving our renewal requests with a low rate of returned mail.
Renewals will occur over 12 months, so ongoing communication is critical. We’re spreading the word through mail, email, social media, local radio, fliers at pharmacies, phone calls, text messages, and multilingual outreach. We’re also working with managed care organizations and trusted community partners to ensure a wide support network exists for Rhode Islanders. Our mini-grant program distributes up to $100,000 each quarter to community partners who help members renew and stay connected to care.
Since Medicaid renewals were last completed before the pandemic, many Rhode Islanders experienced changes impacting their eligibility. Many may now access coverage through an employer or spouse. The federal government estimates about one third of all Medicaid members will move to employer coverage during this renewal period.
Increased income is the reason for most Medicaid terminations, even among people who don’t respond to their renewal notice. Others are disenrolled because they’ve moved out of state or aged into Medicare. While appeals remain low, we’re still keeping a close eye on these categories.
We’re also keeping eligible people covered by automatically renewing coverage when members have enough updated eligibility information on file. We automatically renew more than half of all eligible Medicaid members who are up for renewal each month.
To keep Rhode Islanders covered, we’re connecting people no longer eligible for Medicaid to low-cost health plans through our state marketplace, HealthSource RI. A new program automatically enrolls qualifying disenrolled members into health insurance, and makes their premium payments for two months. This assistance is also available to many who select a HealthSource RI plan for their family after their Medicaid ends. Nearly 20 percent of those disenrolled from Medicaid through July have enrolled through HealthSourceRI, and many were eligible for premium assistance. These best practices were recently highlighted in a nationally attended webinar.
While there is more to do, including renewing households with kids under age 19 beginning in December, we are committed to continuously supporting Rhode Islanders in renewing Medicaid now and in the future. There’s no special enrollment period for Medicaid — Rhode Islanders may apply or re-apply at any time. In Rhode Island, we’re committed to keeping people covered.
Kristin Sousa is the Medicaid director at the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Kimberly Merolla-Brito is the director of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services. Lindsay Lang is the director of HealthSource RI.