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What We’re Reading: Medicaid Enrollment, Jailing People with Mental Illness and Ensuring Mental Health Parity

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Medicaid Enrollment and Unwinding Tracker

At least 3.7 million Medicaid enrollees have lost access as of July 26, 2023, according to a Medicaid enrollment tracker from KFF. Overall, about 38% of people who had renewed their Medicaid benefit were disenrolled from the program in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Across all states, 73% of all people disenrolled had their coverage terminated for procedural reasons, including those who didn’t complete the applications, there was outdated contact information, or application wasn’t completed in a specific timeframe. Children accounted for about 31% of those who have been disenrolled.

KFF estimates that between 8 million and 24 million people will lose Medicaid coverage. At the start of the pandemic, Congress enacted legislation that would continuously enroll people in Medicaid programs during the public health emergency. Between February 2020 and March 2023, Medicaid enrollment grew by an estimated 20 million people.

Continuous enrollment ended in March 2023. State Medicaid programs are now in the process of “unwinding” the continuous enrollment of beneficiaries and removing from coverage those who are no longer eligible.

The Jailing of People with Mental Illness

Mississippi is the state with the highest number of people with serious mental illness who end up in jail while they wait for treatment. A review of cases in 19 Mississippi counties published by Mississippi Today and ProPublica found people in those counties were jailed at least 2,000 times without being charged between 2019 and 2022. Since 2006, at least 13 people have died in county jails while waiting for treatment.

At least 12 states plus the District of Columbia prohibit jailing people undergoing commitment proceedings for mental illness unless they have been charged with a crime, according to a separate story in ProPublica.

Ensuring Mental Health Parity

President Joseph Biden this week announced a new rule to strengthen mental parity requirements and improve mental health care access. Although the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was enacted in 2008, many still have difficulty accessing mental health services. Of the 21% of adults who had any mental illness in 2020, less than half received mental healthcare. People with private health coverage have a hard time finding a mental health provider in their health plan’s network. The proposed rule would require insurers to assess and report on their plans have mental health benefits have parity and will require plans to improve access to mental health care.

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