Medicaid continuous enrollment will come to an end on March 31, 2023, as the temporary provisions are decoupled from the COVID-19 public health emergency. The federal government introduced the protections to ensure individuals did not lose coverage during the pandemic, leading to record enrollment levels. But as states prepare to resume routine renewals, up to 15 million people could end up without adequate insurance. Coverage gaps could disrupt access to health services and increase the risk of uncompensated care for providers. With Medicaid continuous enrollment coming to an end, how can providers prepare?
Mitigating the effects of the unwinding of the Medicaid continuous enrollment provision
Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed in December 2022, states will have 14 months to complete renewal processes for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). While 6.8 million people are likely to remain eligible, churn and administrative delays could leave some without coverage.
Analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that in recent years, around 65% of people who disenroll from Medicaid or CHIP experience a gap in coverage for all or part of the following 12 months. Some transition to other forms of coverage, but around 41% eventually re-enroll.
Implementation of the forthcoming “unwinding” process largely falls to states. While the new legislation and associated guidance bring welcome certainty, concerns remain around how to avoid unnecessary disenrollment and expedite redetermination. That way, patients (and providers) aren’t left holding bills that could have been covered when the Medicaid continuous enrollment period ends.
4 things providers can do if a patient loses Medicaid coverage
As patients steel themselves for the return of renewal paperwork, providers are considering how they can help patients maintain coverage and get the financial assistance they need. Digital self-service tools to apply for financial assistance can help patients access the appropriate support, with tailored payment plan options based on their individual financial situation – all through automation.
Here are 4 key actions for providers to consider:
1. Find missing coverage with Coverage Discovery
Healthcare providers should put automated processes in place to find any active coverage that may have been overlooked. Coverage Discovery searches for any billable government or commercial insurance to eliminate unnecessary write-offs and give patients peace of mind. Using advanced search heuristics, millions of data points and powerful confidence scoring, this tool checks for coverage across the entire patient journey. If the patient’s status changes, their bill won’t be sent to the wrong place.
In 2021, Coverage Discovery identified previously unknown billable coverage in more than 27.5% of self-pay accounts, preventing billions of dollars from being written off.
2. Quickly identify patients who may be eligible for Medicaid and financial assistance
A lack of clarity around enrollment and eligibility could cause chaos for claims and collections teams. How can they handle reimbursements and billing efficiently if financial responsibility is unclear? Claim denial rates are already a top concern for providers, on top of wasted time from seeking Medicaid reimbursement for disenrolled patients. Equally, patient collections will take a hit if accounts are designated as self-pay when the patient is entitled to financial assistance and charity care. It may be difficult to tell who’s who without a robust process to check patients’ ability and propensity to pay.
With Patient Financial Clearance, providers can quickly determine if patients are likely to qualify for financial support, then assign them to the right financial pathway, using pre- and post-service checks. Self-pay patients can be screened for Medicaid eligibility before treatment or at the point of service, and then routed to the Medicaid Enrollment team or auto-enrolled as charity care if appropriate. Post-visit, the tool evaluates payment risk to determine the most suitable collection policy for those with an amount to pay and can set up customized payment plans based on the patient’s ability to pay.
Patient Financial Clearance also runs back-end checks to catch patients who have already been sent a bill but may qualify for Medicaid or provider charity programs. This helps providers secure reimbursement and means patients are less likely to be chased for bills they can’t pay.
3. Screen and segment patients according to their propensity to pay
Optimizing collections processes is always a smart move for providers, and will be particularly important when federal support ends. Collections Optimization Manager uses advanced analytics to segment patient accounts based on propensity to pay and send them to the appropriate collections team. With access to Experian’s consumer credit data, the Collections Optimization Manager segmentation models are powered by a more unique and more catered approach that includes robust and proprietary algorithms. It screens out Medicaid and charity eligibility, so collections staff focus their time on the right accounts.
Between 2019-20 and 2020-21, UCSDH increased collections from around $6 million to over $21 million with Collections Optimization Manager. Altru Health System also used this solution to ensure that patients who were eligible for Medicaid were not allocated to collections and their insurance was billed promptly. Over a 10-month period, more than 4,000 accounts were flagged as eligible for financial assistance, representing nearly $2.7 million.
This automated process also alleviates the burden on staff, who will likely be handling greater numbers of queries from anxious patients when continuous enrollment ends.
4. Make it simpler for patients to manage and pay bills
The reality is that many patients affected by the unwinding of continuous enrollment will be on low incomes. When more than half of patients say they’d struggle to pay an unexpected medical bill of $500, providers need to take steps to make it easier for patients to gauge their upcoming bills. Digital, self-service tools such as Patient Financial Clearance can help self-screen for charity and financial assistance. Patient Financial Advisor and PatientSimple can help patients navigate the payment process with pre-service estimates, access to payment plans and convenient payment methods they can access on a computer or mobile device.
Together, these tools can help providers manage the fluctuating Medicaid continuous enrollment landscape efficiently and offer extra support to patients who may be facing disenrollment.
Find out more about how Patient Financial Clearance and other digital solutions can help healthcare organizations deliver compassionate financial experiences to their patients.