Dr. Mary Kargbo, president and CEO of Berks Community Health Center, introduced Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Dr. Val Arkush, who outlined changes to the state Medicaid system in light of recent federal changes to BCHC on Rockland Street in Reading Monday (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)
Pennsylvania residents who rely on Medicaid for health insurance will once again have to reapply to continue receiving coverage.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government allowed states to continue to provide Medicaid coverage for most people, even if they no longer qualify for those benefits. Having the policy in place meant that people were not required to reapply for cover every year as they had to do before.
But the federal policy ended in March, meaning people with Medicare will have to start reapplying to keep their insurance.
While no one will lose coverage immediately, Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Human Services Dr. Val Arkush is spreading the word that all Pennsylvanians who use Medicaid will have to reapply for coverage next year or risk losing it your health insurance.
Arkoosh, a former Montgomery County commissioner, joined local officials Monday during a visit to the Berks Community Health Center on Rockland Street in Redding to discuss how the state is working with community partners to help Berks residents maintain health coverage in light of the Medicaid renewal change.
“We need to make sure we’re reaching everyone in our community who needs to reconsider Medicaid eligibility,” she said. “We will all have to work together. None of us will be able to do the job successfully.
Arkoosh encouraged those currently enrolled in Medicaid to make sure they have all of their contact information up to date because they will hear from the Department of Human Services several times before the renewal date.
In fact, she said, the state ensures that people receive multiple direct messages starting 90 days before the renewal deadline via email, text message and mail informing them of the changes and how to reapply for Medicaid.
“Having health insurance gives people peace of mind knowing that when they need care, it will be there for them when they need it,” she said. “Every Pennsylvanian deserves access to affordable, quality health care that helps them live, work, play and thrive.”
Berks Community Health Center President and CEO Mary Kargbo said she was pleased to host the important event because nearly 95 percent of their patients are below the federal poverty line and about 60 percent of those patients are covered through these vital insurance programs.
“We are committed to the members of our community and we have staff to help with the process if they need help or have any questions,” she said.
State Sen. Judy Schwank said losing medical coverage can be devastating for people and that the state should do everything it can to make sure people understand exactly what’s going on.
“We want to make sure everyone is informed about the options available to them,” she said.
Schwank and state Rep. Johanni Cepeda-Freitiz, who also attended Monday’s event, said their offices are working in tandem with DHS to make sure their constituents are informed about the situation and provide information on what to do to stay covered.
Cepeda-Freytiz said Medicaid is a personal issue for her. She said she spent several years without health insurance and knows the fear and stress it can cause.
“We need to figure out not only how to get the information out to the community, but also how to help people access these programs,” she said. “Because health care is a right.”
Who needs to re-register?
Anyone who used to get health insurance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, will need to re-enroll.
Everyone’s renewal date will be different. In April, DHS officials began contacting people who need to reapply and will continue to do so on an ongoing basis throughout the coming year.
When DHS contacts someone, they will have 90 days until the renewal deadline expires.
How do I re-enroll?
When it comes time to re-enroll in Medicaid, people will have several options for how to do so.
Re-enrollment can be done by mail by simply completing the paper application from DHS and sending it back using the return envelope included in the renewal packet.
Completed paper applications may also be returned in person to county assistance offices. The offices can also assist individuals in completing their forms.
Renewal applications can be completed online through the COMPASS website.
Finally, applications can be completed over the phone by calling the DHS Consumer Service Center at 1-866-550-4355.
What if I am no longer eligible for Medicaid?
Those no longer eligible for Medicaid will be automatically directed to other sources of coverage such as CHIP and Pennie, Pennsylvania’s official health insurance marketplace, to avoid a gap in health care.
Individuals will receive communications about other coverage options after their Medicaid cases are closed.