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Colorado’s Medicaid insurance terminations seventh highest in nation

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Eric Galatas

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(Colorado News Connection) Two-thirds of Coloradans who have lost their health insurance during Medicaid's unwinding process are still eligible for coverage - but were terminated due to administrative errors, according to a new Colorado Center on Law and Policy brief

Katherine Wallat, the Center's legal director, said she has heard from people who have been forced to postpone critical heart surgery due to lack of coverage.

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"Or a child who had cancer treatment, who had to stop his treatment for a period of time because the family couldn't afford it," said Wallat. "But in fact he was eligible for Medicaid during the time that he was terminated. So the costs are high."

Medicaid coverage renewed automatically during the pandemic, but that policy ended in April of last year. 

During the first six months of unwinding, over 412,000 Coloradans lost coverage. 

The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing has largely dismissed concerns about the high rate of procedural disenrollments, arguing the process has simply returned to normal and that some participants are not returning paperwork.

Wallat said Colorado's enrollment process was broken long before the pandemic. 

Due to a host of factors including the state's fragmented, county-administered system, she said Medicaid participants routinely get notices giving them wrong or contradictory information. 

Many never received correct notification of their impending termination date.

"There was an audit done by the legislature, finding 90% of the notices are incorrect," said Wallat. "It's really not just the members, it's not just people who should be doing something differently, and that if they just did that, we wouldn't have such a high rate."

Colorado ranks 21st nationally in terms of state population, but has the seventh-highest number of people losing Medicaid coverage. 

Wallat said the costs of the unwinding process are significant. Every 10,000 unnecessary applications cost Colorado taxpayers up to $6 million.

"The cost of being disenrolled and having to re-apply for a program like Medicaid is pretty large," said Wallat. "It's between $400 and $600 for each person that is terminated and gets re-enrolled."