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Roughly one out of every 18 Coloradans could find themselves looking for new health care coverage over the coming year, after the end of a federal pandemic-era rule means that more than 300,000 people are likely set to lose Medicaid benefits.

The insurance turmoil — the result of the end of the official federal public health emergency for COVID-19 — represents the largest transition in health coverage since the Affordable Care Act went into place 10 years ago.

“The end of the public health emergency is a pivotal moment for Coloradans,” Adam Fox, the deputy director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said at a news conference earlier this year.

Why Medicaid coverage is ending for some

Medicaid is the joint state and federal government health insurance program for people with low income. In Colorado, the program is known as Health First Colorado.

To qualify, households must make 138% of the federal poverty level or below — about $20,000 a year for a single person or $40,000 for a family of four. Children and pregnant people in families who make slightly more could qualify for a related program called the Child Health Plan Plus, or CHP+.

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People on Medicaid typically must go through eligibility re-evaluations to make sure they still qualify. But the federal government paused those redeterminations during the height of the COVID pandemic. That grew Colorado’s Medicaid rolls to roughly 1.7 million people, or more than one out of every four people in the state.


Now that the public health emergency is coming to an end, Medicaid officials in Colorado will again start doing the eligibility re-evaluations. Kim Bimestefer, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which administers Medicaid in the state, said her department currently estimates there are 325,000 people who are currently covered by Medicaid who will no longer be eligible.

The department and a bunch of other state agencies and health care organizations are now focused on making sure those folks maintain coverage by connecting them to other options.

“Everybody is working together in a collaborative, collective, meaningful way to help keep Coloradans covered,” Bimestefer said. “One of the most important things we can do is make sure people have affordable access to the care they need.”

The logo for the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which administers Medicaid in the state, on a sign in the department’s offices on Feb. 26, 2019. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)

When will this happen?

The disenrollments won’t happen all at once. Instead, it will be a gradual process playing out over the next year.

The state began sending renewal notices to the first wave of Medicaid members last month. Once people receive their renewal notices, they will have about 60 days to complete the paperwork before their renewal deadlines. That means the first disenrollments will start happening in May.

The process will continue monthly through April 2024 until everyone in the program has had an eligibility redetermination.

Some people — about a third of those covered by Medicaid, Bimestefer said — will be automatically renewed and won’t have to take any further action. Those folks will be notified of their auto-renewal about two months before their renewal date.

People who are no longer eligible for Medicaid will need to find other coverage options. For most, that will mean buying a private health insurance plan or checking with their workplace to see if they are eligible for employer-sponsored coverage.

What Medicaid members need to do now

The most important thing for Medicaid members to do now is to update their contact information with the program. That will ensure that they receive the renewal paperwork — and also make sure that everyone who is still eligible for Medicaid remains covered.

“People need to act,” said Patrick Gordon, the CEO of insurance company Rocky Mountain Health Plans. “Please don’t wait.”

To update contact information, Medicaid and CHP+ members should log into their account online.

Where can I learn more?

The Colorado Sun is hosting a free, virtual panel discussion to provide more information about the Medicaid renewal process. The event will also include information on what people who lose Medicaid access can do to maintain health coverage — often at low upfront cost.

The event will be held live on Tuesday, April 4, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Speakers include Bimestefer, Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway, Connect for Health Colorado insurance exchange CEO Kevin Patterson and Meagan Fearing, a health insurance broker and the president of the Colorado State Association of Health Underwriters.

To register for the event, go to The Sun’s events page.If you can’t watch the event live, it will be available later on The Sun’s YouTube channel. This article will also be updated with a link to the recorded video.

John Ingold

John Ingold is a co-founder of The Colorado Sun and a reporter currently specializing in health care coverage. Born and raised in Colorado Springs, John spent 18 years working at The Denver Post. Prior to that, he held internships at the Rocky Ford Daily Gazette, the Colorado Springs...