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photo of expected renewal letter in hands

Medicaid renewals coming

Take action, seek options to stay insured

by Julie Estlick

This April brings not just rain showers, but the end of guaranteed coverage for thousands of Medicaid recipients under the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. Some 60,000 people in Larimer County rely on Health First Colorado—the state’s Medicaid program—to provide medical, dental, and behavioral health benefits because they live on a lower income or with a disability. But beginning in May, if you no longer meet eligibility requirements, or don’t sign and return renewal forms by the due date (ongoing through June 2024, depending on your enrollment anniversary), you will lose your health insurance within a month.

Many individuals qualified for Health First Colorado due to an economic or health crisis during the worst of the pandemic, leading to a larger percentage of insured residents across the state. Recipients were able to continue with their coverage even if they returned to work or no longer qualified for other reasons, until recent Congressional legislation ended the practice.

It’s a situation that worries area service providers. “This is the largest change to U.S. health insurance coverage since the Affordable Care Act, and many Colorado Medicaid recipients have never had to complete a renewal,” says Vanessa Fewell, division manager for the Larimer County Department of Human Services Benefits and Community Support Division. 

That’s because prior to the pandemic, Coloradans with no change in their status were automatically renewed and did not have to undergo a review. Starting in May, renewal packets up to 60 pages long will be sent to members by their preferred method (mail, email, text notification) about 60-70 days before their enrollment anniversary. The process, known as the “unwinding” of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) continuous Medicaid coverage, will continue through June 2024.

There is particular concern that individuals who are dropped from Medicaid will skip needed medical care or stop taking prescription medications because they can’t afford to pay out of pocket.

As the number of uninsured people increases, “there will be worse health outcomes in our community, no doubt about it,” warns Dr. Joseph Prows, a family medicine doctor in Fort Collins and a member of the Health District’s Board of Directors.  

Next steps

While renewal packets related to the PHE unwinding will be sent through June of next year, annual eligibility reviews will become the norm in Colorado. It’s an adjustment, but the renewal process doesn’t have to be hard if you remember a few things:

  • Keep your contact information current with Health First Colorado. If your circumstances change, contact Health First Colorado within 10 days.
  • If you are auto-renewed because Health First Colorado has up-to-date information proving you still qualify, you’ll receive a letter saying that you are approved for coverage. Nothing else needs to be done.
  • If you receive a renewal packet, TAKE ACTION! Don’t wait for the deadline, send it in as soon as you can—even if you don’t think you still qualify for Medicaid. If you are disenrolled, you’ll get a letter stating that you no longer have health insurance coverage. Insurance companies require this letter as proof that you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, which allows you 60 days to enroll in a new plan (some employer-sponsored plans allow only 30 days). While you can’t renew before your anniversary date, you can get a jump on enrolling in a plan to begin when your Medicaid coverage ends.
  • If you forget to renew, you will get a letter stating that your coverage is ending. Keep this letter as proof that you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, then enroll in a new plan, or reapply to Medicaid if you think you are still eligible.

Help is available. The Health District’s Larimer Health Connect program provides free assistance to find the best insurance option to meet a family’s needs and budget, including Medicare (65+). The Health District also offers a Prescription Assistance program for uninsured or underinsured individuals who meet other requirements. And its Family Dental Clinic accepts patients with no insurance and offers a sliding fee scale for those who qualify. Se habla español.

Resources
Health First Colorado

Colorado’s Medicaid program
healthfirstcolorado.com/renewals
1-800-221-3943, Health First Colorado mobile app (Must have Colorado PEAK account)

Colorado PEAK

Manage contact information and benefits for Medicaid and CHP+, find renewal due dates.
coloradopeak.secure.force.com

Larimer County Department of Human Services

Help filling out renewal forms, benefits information for medical, food, cash, child care assistance, and other programs.
larimer.gov/humanservices/public-benefits/health-first or 970-498-6300

Health District Programs
Larimer Health Connect

Free help with Medicaid, CHP+, Medicare, and Connect for Health Colorado insurance plans; information about health insurance.
larimerhealthconnect.org, 970-472-0444

Prescription Assistance Program

Help paying for prescriptions for qualifying individuals.
lenreed.com, 970-416-6519

Family Dental Clinic

Treats uninsured patients; offers sliding-fee scale for qualifying individuals.
lenreed.com, 970-416-5331