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Tri-Caucus Chairs Call for HHS Secretary Becerra to Protect Medicaid Coverage and Access to Health Care During “Unwinding”

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Washington, March 20, 2023 | Freedom Alexander Murphy | comments

Today, the Chairs of the Congressional Tri-Caucus–the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) led more than 60 of their Tri-Caucus colleagues in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to preserve Medicaid coverage and protect access to healthcare during Medicaid “unwinding.”

The lawmakers are calling for state and federal action to keep families in America covered as Medicaid’s continuous coverage requirement ends, and for Secretary Becerra to clearly define and enforce states’ legal obligations to prevent rampant, paperwork-driven terminations.

“We cannot afford to roll back the hard-fought progress we have made on Medicaid, which has helped to narrow racial disparities in health coverage and provide much needed access to life-saving care in communities of color. If Medicaid terminations resume, more than 2 million Black Americans nationwide will lose access to life-saving health care despite their eligibility,” said CBC Chair Steven Horsford (NV-04). “The Congressional Black Caucus has long prioritized advancing equity in health care in our communities and we join our Tri-Caucus colleagues in calling on HHS Secretary Becerra to take action to preserve beneficiary access to Medicaid coverage and stop eligible Medicaid families from improperly losing health care coverage.”

“I am gravely concerned that when states resume the ‘unwinding’ of the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement in April, millions of low-income beneficiaries, including Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) and other communities of color, will unnecessarily lose essential health insurance,” said CAPAC Chair Judy Chu (CA-28). “Once Medicaid terminations resume, nearly one million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders stand to lose coverage, and one-tenth of all Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander children will be dropped from the program. Secretary Becerra must use his new enforcement authority to protect health care access for all struggling families and enrolled children, including those belonging to AANHPI communities.”

“Millions of Latinos were able to access life-saving health insurance coverage as a result of the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement and these historic gains must not be erased when states resume Medicaid unwinding,” said CHC Chair Nanette Barragán (CA-44). “As states begin to review Medicaid eligibility, millions of low-income beneficiaries are at risk of becoming uninsured if the program operates as it did in the past. Sixty-four percent of Latinos covered by Medicaid are poised to lose coverage, despite remaining eligible. Secretary Becerra must act boldly and use his new enforcement authority to minimize disparities in coverage rates and affordability of care. I thank my Tri-Caucus colleagues for highlighting the dire need to keep Americans covered as Medicaid’s continuous coverage requirement ends.” 

“Providing Medicaid coverage for millions of our nation’s struggling families during the COVID-19 pandemic saved countless lives. As we approach the Medicaid redetermination period, we must continue to work together to protect our most vulnerable Americans, including the 2.2 million Black Americans at risk of losing their Medicaid coverage,” said Rep. Federica S. Wilson (FL-24). “It is critical that the Biden-Harris administration take the necessary steps to prevent millions from losing the life-saving coverage keeping them from drowning in medical debt. I’m proud to join my tri-caucus colleagues in urging Secretary Becerra to preserve and protect American's access to affordable medical care.”

Congress passed legislation at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to protect access to Medicaid by ensuring no one could be disenrolled during the public health emergency. This provision, which helped secure the lowest level of uninsured Americans ever, is set to expire on April 1, resulting in an estimated 15 million people potentially losing coverage – disproportionately impacting people of color and children. The Biden-Harris Administration previously has demonstrated its commitment to expanding access to care and providing guidance to states to assess eligibility in a way that will minimize coverage losses, particularly for children, people of color, people with disabilities, and others who rely on the Medicaid program for their health care.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, unwinding is expected to come with stark racial inequities. Roughly 17 percent of white enrollees estimated to lose Medicaid coverage are predicted to lose it through administrative churning despite still being eligible for Medicaid. However, the rates are much higher among people of color: 64% of Latinos enrolled, over half of Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander enrollees, 47% of Black enrollees, and nearly half of multiracial and other non-white enrollees will lose Medicaid coverage even though they will still be eligible.

“It's imperative that states take the necessary steps to ensure that millions of Americans don't lose their critical health care coverage. Failing to take appropriate action will have devastating impacts on the people who rely on Medicaid for their health care, particularly moms and kids, people of color, rural Americans, and people with disabilities. These risks are particularly acute in states with Republican governors or state legislatures that have refused to expand Medicaid. We support the Tri-Caucus effort and the commitment of the Biden administration to ensure that everyone who is eligible for coverage stays covered,” said Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care.

“An historic number of Americans, including five million Latinos, are likely to lose their health coverage unless the Biden-Harris Administration acts quickly and boldly to protect Medicaid.  Absent immediate intervention, when the continuous coverage requirements expire on April 1, our country faces the loss of health care for millions of families and children and the exacerbation of the health inequities that made the pandemic so deadly for so many communities.  For the benefit of all Americans, we must not let this happen. UnidosUS joins with the Congressional Tri-Caucus in urging the Administration to use every tool at its disposal to prevent this potential public health catastrophe,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy group.

“The Medicaid redetermination period will be perilous for communities of color without meaningful state efforts and federal oversight,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “Forty-seven percent of Black people covered by Medicaid are poised to lose coverage – despite remaining eligible – simply because of red tape. We thank the leadership and members of the Tri Caucus for engaging on this vital civil rights issue.”

“Medicaid Unwinding puts millions of families, including one million Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander individuals, at risk of being uninsured. We know that so many people across federal and state administrations are working hard to preserve and assist these vulnerable individuals, but more needs to be done. Our Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities require support, including more in-language materials, Navigators, and outreach from trusted messengers to ensure no one is left behind,” said Juliet K. Choi, President & CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF).

Full text of the letter is available here.

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