Oregon has kicked nearly 55,000 people off its Medicaid program, after the state found they no longer qualified or failed to respond to an eligibility check.
The state made the announcement Thursday, after workers finally cleared a backlog of eligibility checks that built up due to technology troubles and a massive increase in Medicaid enrollment under the Affordable Care Act.
Historically, around 28 percent of Oregonians on Medicaid were found to no longer qualify at annual eligibility reviews. But when the state finished working through its backlog of 115,000 Medicaid enrollees, it took the free insurance away from nearly 48 percent of them.
Gov. Kate Brown had set Thursday as the deadline for the Oregon Health Authority to catch up on the eligibility checks, after The Oregonian/OregonLive reported on the backlog and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson issued a preliminary “audit alert” on the issue. State auditors are still looking into the state’s Medicaid program.
Brown did not respond to questions Thursday about whether she has any ongoing concerns about the heath agency’s administration of Medicaid, including whether it is operating efficiently.
However, press secretary Bryan Hockaday wrote in an email that Brown “expects Acting Director (Pat) Allen to move OHA forward by demonstrating accountability, transparency, and careful stewardship of every taxpayer dollar.” Hockaday referred to Brown’s letter to Allen earlier this month, saying his “highest priority from day one should be restoring trust with the public, legislators, stakeholders, and most importantly the clients the Oregon Health Authority serves.”
In a press release Thursday, Oregon Health Authority spokesman Robb Cowie said Allen “has been charged with making organizational changes to improve the Medicaid renewal process to ensure accuracy, the wise use of taxpayer dollars, and make sure that everyone who is eligible for Medicaid has access to it.”
This will include creating a new Medicaid Eligibility Compliance Office at the agency, Cowie wrote. That office will improve the follow-up eligibility checks and also work to improve quality control and data, he wrote.
The Oregonian/OregonLive has reported the state had to process hundreds of thousands of Medicaid applications by hand because an automated eligibility system failed along with the rest of the $300 million Cover Oregon project. More than 500 temporary workers were assigned to the project.
Medicaid is supposed to provide care for people with low incomes. To qualify in Oregon, single people can earn no more than $17,000 a year and a family of four no more than $33,000.
— Hillary Borrud