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TennCare expects 300,000 to lose coverage after pandemic ends

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Tennessee’s Medicaid program has swelled during the pandemic. And now as it’s preparing to thin down, TennCare is expanding its team that handles appeals.

If the public health emergency ends in January, as the federal government expects, TennCare will have roughly 300,000 more people on its rolls than before the pandemic, when numbers were around 1.4 million enrollees. The projections were revealed during last week’s budget hearings with Gov. Bill Lee when the agency also asked to fund 19 new positions.

Medicaid programs, which provide health coverage for low-income families, haven’t been allowed to conduct their annual process of making sure people still qualify — known as redetermination. If someone enrolled in TennCare during the pandemic, they haven’t lost coverage. But they could once the suspension is lifted, if their financial situation has improved.

This means more people than usual may end up losing coverage by misunderstanding the process.

TennCare advocates are concerned that many people may have moved during the pandemic and won’t receive the packets or know to renew online. Some will learn only when they go to the doctor and find out they’ve become uninsured.

“Some people aren’t familiar with the redetermination process because they’ve never gone through it before,” says Kinika Young, senior director of health policy at the Tennessee Justice Center. “So it’s really important that we do a good job of getting word out that they need to look out for this paperwork and really take it seriously and respond to it.”

Unless the public health emergency is extended, TennCare beneficiaries should begin looking out for instructions on verifying their income early in 2022. They are given 30 days’ notice before coverage is canceled.

TennCare officials say they don’t want anyone to lose coverage who is qualified to keep it.

“We want everyone who is eligible to be enrolled in our program to stay enrolled,” spokesperson Connor Tapp says in an email. “We will be working to ensure that happens.”

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