Close to 3 million Americans that signed up for Medicaid coverage since Obamacare exchanges launched, as states struggle to sift through applications amid high demand and ongoing HealthCare.gov problems.
Medicaid backlogs have exploded over the past months, according to a Roll Call analysis covering 41 states. Millions of new Americans became eligible in the 26 states that agreed to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and “woodworkers,” or those who were previously eligible for the program, began signing up due to increased media coverage.
Between California, Illinois and North Carolina, 1.5 million people are waiting for their applications to be processed — new applicants have to wait for months. California, unsurprisingly, has the largest pool of applicants waiting for a response: 900,000 are waiting to see whether they’ll be given low-income coverage. Illinois is faced with an outsized problem — state officials have been taken aback by the volume of applicants and 330,000 are waiting for an answer.
HealthCare.gov glitches are to blame for some portion of the wait times. The Obamacare website accepts Medicaid applications, but has faced back-end problems that failed to send complete enrollment files to state offices that provide Medicaid coverage.
Some states are still waiting to get their applicants from HealthCare.gov. Alaska, Kansas, Maine and Michigan still cannot receive Medicaid applications from HealthCare.gov, according to Roll Call. Georgia has just received applications that were submitted as far back as last fall.
In the face of the HealthCare.gov problems, some states asked their applicants to re-enroll through a state website; and others sorted their applications by hand. Because of the glitches, half of Idaho’s and Louisiana’s backlogs turned out to be duplicate applications.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokesman Aaron Albright told Roll Call that the federal government is working on getting states their ongoing Medicaid applications.
“CMS is actively transferring accounts to all states that are ready to receive them,” Albright said. “In the meantime, every state not receiving transfers can be enrolling people through alternative options CMS has made available.”
Medicaid applications, for both standard programs and the Obamacare expansion, are open year-round. States are required to process Medicaid applications within 45 days, but between overloaded applications and HealthCare.gov’s tardiness in getting applications to the states, few are meeting their deadlines.
Medicaid coverage is retroactive to a point — the coverage pays for services up to 90 days before the person applied, if the person was eligible. Especially in states with larger backlogs, applicants may be waiting longer than that, however, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be deemed eligible. Indiana approved just 5 percent of applicants that HealthCare.gov considered eligible for the state’s program.
The Obama administration has frequently touted the program’s success by citing the number of Medicaid applications received during the open enrollment period. President Barack Obama hit the 24 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid in April for opposing the expansion, claiming that residents “could be having health insurance right now,” despite HealthCare.gov’s and state administrations’ inability to get even current applicants through the sign-up process.