• U.S.
  • Health Care

15 Million Americans Could Lose Medicaid Coverage as Pandemic-Era Policy Ends

3 minute read

Some 15 million people could lose their Medicaid coverage over the next few months as pandemic-related emergency provisions come to an end—though residents in five states will feel its impact earlier than others.

During the pandemic, the yearly reapplication process for Medicaid was paused and states stopped checking if people were still eligible for its coverage. But starting April 1, people in Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire and South Dakota could see their loss of healthcare coverage as Medicaid begins to verify eligibility and will begin to disenroll patients.

Fourteen more states will cut off coverage for people who are no longer eligible in May, and another 20 (plus the District of Columbia) will do so in June, affecting the more than 90 million Americans who are currently enrolled in Medicaid.

Here’s what to know about the change.

Why is this happening?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was enacted in March 2020, required Medicaid programs to keep people enrolled until the end of the public health emergency. The federal government promised to federally match state’s Medicaid rates to help deal with the increase in enrollment.

But the federal spending package that passed in late December changed that law. Congress set March 31 as the final date for the continuous enrollment provision. Within the next 14 months, states must now verify if a recipient still qualifies.

This shift in policy puts some 6.7 million children at risk, compared to the 4.4. million children that were uninsured in 2019.

“We know whenever these sorts of moments happen, it’s people of color, it’s kids, it’s people that don’t speak English that are always hit the hardest,” Natalie Davis, a founder and the chief executive of nonpartisan advocacy organization United States of Care, told the New York Times.

What are your options if you think you may lose your Medicaid coverage?

About 6.8 million Americans who will be unenrolled will likely still be eligible for Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In order to ensure that you receive notices, renewal forms and other letters from Medicaid to keep up your eligibility, enrollees should update their contact information under their online Medicaid account.

Most states say they plan on prioritizing renewals and following up with enrollees before they end their coverage, meaning there is still time to act. You can find out your state’s plan, here.

States that are acting quickly, like Idaho, began sending notices to people who would lose coverage in February, and gave them 60 days to respond.

If a change in income or circumstance does cause you to lose your health coverage, you may still be eligible for other programs. Idaho residents, for instance, can find coverage through Your Health Idaho, a marketplace where individuals can compare health insurance plans. One third of Idahoans who enroll through the site make a $0 monthly payment for health insurance.

Under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which took effect this month, adults with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level can become eligible for the public health insurance program. Forty states have opted in to the expansion, including South Dakota, which will begin to apply the new eligibility requirement in July. That means that people who lose coverage may become re-eligible by the summer.

You can also check for other affordable options by visiting the Affordable Care Act marketplaces at HealthCare.gov.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com