When the US federal government’s pandemic health emergency declaration
expires, millions of Americans are at risk of losing healthcare coverage through
Medicaid with potentially devastating consequences.
According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an estimated 5.3
million to 14.2 million could lose their Medicaid coverage when the Covid-19
public health emergency ends on 15 July if it is not extended.
During the pandemic, the federal government required states to continuously
enroll Medicaid recipients into the program, providing $100.4 bn in new funds to
cover the costs of doing so, halting coverage gaps and loss of eligibility for
those who rely on healthcare coverage through Medicaid.
Medicaid enrollment is estimated to reach 110.2 million people by the end of
fiscal year 2022, with enrollment expected to decline significantly when
continuous enrollment ends.
Federal government subsidies to make healthcare plans more affordable on the
insurance marketplace are expected to end on 31 December 2022, making health
insurance plans more expensive, possibly resulting in more Americans losing
health insurance coverage because they can’t afford it.
Zachary Fusfeld of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a PhD candidate in
epidemiology at Drexel University, is anticipating the loss of his Medicaid
coverage when continuous enrollment ends, because his university stipend
increase will put him over the income limit.
A type one diabetic who suffers from other illnesses, Fusfeld said he will
have to rely on his student healthcare and pay out of pocket for copays on
medications, medical supplies, and doctor visits when his Medicaid coverage ends
later this year, the costs of which are not affordable and not covered by his
He recently required surgery on his ankle and is worried about affording the
physical therapy he requires, though he noted there are many people who are
facing the loss of Medicaid and don’t have any sort of supplemental insurance
coverage as he does.
Dylan Brown of New Jersey is disabled and relies on Medicaid for a home aide
he requires around the clock to be able to get out of bed, dress and feed
himself. He constantly worries about losing his Medicaid and Social Security
disability insurance due to income and asset eligibility requirements and is
very concerned about losing Medicaid when continuous enrollment ends.
Without Medicaid, he would have to rely on his parents, who work full-time,
to provide the care he needs and pay out of pocket for care to the extent his
family could afford it. These options, Brown argued, aren’t feasible as he is
planning to start law school this fall at Rutgers University, and his parents
shouldn’t have to uproot their lives to help him function, which is the
responsibility of Medicaid.
"There shouldn’t be a cutoff date. There’s no reasonable argument for not
giving disabled people the care they need to survive,” added Brown. “Regardless
of what you’re feeling on whether people should have free healthcare, the
disabled need it. There are no alternatives for us. It’s Medicaid or bust, and
when the Medicaid rules are this convoluted and hard to keep track of, it almost
feels like a full time job just keeping my benefits.”