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'Filled with anxiety': Billings family kicked off Medicaid after over a decade of coverage

'Filled with anxiety': Billings family kicked off Medicaid after over a decade of coverage
Posted at 6:43 AM, May 21, 2024

BILLINGS — Enrollment in Medicaid grew to record highs in Montana during the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 310,000 Montanans having coverage. Now, after redetermination of who qualifies, nearly 135,000 lost coverage.

One of those Montanans, Aaron Nathan of Billings, said it feels like a never-ending battle trying to get re-enrolled after losing his decade-long coverage.

“I was kicked off Medicaid. I have applied. I have reapplied,” Nathan said on Monday.

'Filled with anxiety': Billings family kicked off Medicaid after over a decade of coverage

During the pandemic, Congress passed legislation banning states from kicking people off Medicaid, which is the federally backed health insurance designed for those who meet income thresholds. In April 2023, that law expired and the process of redetermining who still qualified began in Montana.

“I don’t know when my determination went from part of my medical diagnosis to how much money I make,” Nathan said.

Nathan got on Medicaid after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2010. He has bipolar disorder and admits he often struggles to work full-time because of his diagnosis.

“You just can’t quite cut it. You can’t quite make 40 hours a week. You don’t know when you’re going to be out of work for weeks or months,” he said.

His 14-year-old daughter had Medicaid coverage for her entire life, but in July of last year, they were both found ineligible as Montana continued its redetermination of eligibility.

'Filled with anxiety': Billings family kicked off Medicaid after over a decade of coverage

“It's very difficult to have your child tell you that they need help and to be filled with anxiety about how you’re going to get that help,” Nathan said.

He has tried to re-apply multiple times, but said he has not made much progress. He said he received a six-month extension for his coverage and was told his daughter had been re-enrolled.

“I can’t take their (Department of Health and Human Services) word for it," he said. "They say she's approved and in 24 to 48 hours, her insurance should clear at my doctor's office. Forty-eight hours later, I called my daughter's doctor's office, they run the insurance, it doesn’t go through.”

That add to the stress and medical bills, they have accrued over the last 10 months.

'Filled with anxiety': Billings family kicked off Medicaid after over a decade of coverage

“If it just keeps going like this, I don’t know what to do,” Nathan said.

Olivia Riutta runs Cover Montana, a federally supported part of the Montana Primary Care Association that helps Montanans find and obtain health insurance. She helps families such as Nathan's get re-enrolled in Medicaid or find other health insurance.

“Over 130,000 Montanans have lost coverage in the last year, which is about one in 10 of us. So, we all know and love somebody who has seen a coverage transition,” Riutta said. “Folks who lost coverage, right, a majority of those folks actually lost coverage for what we call, 'procedural reasons'. So, for some reason, they didn’t send something back in to the Office of Public Assistance, whether it was a redetermination packet, whether it was a verification. So, if folks still think that they qualify they should reapply.”

In April of this year, Cover Montana launched the campaign "Get Covered Again", a statewide push to get those found ineligible for Medicaid coverage health insurance again.