More than 1.7M Medicaid applications are in limbo

Providers might refuse to see patients without Medicaid cards

About 1.7 million U.S. residents who have enrolled in Medicaid still are waiting for their applications to be processed, according to officials from 15 states.

Last week: One in five Americans is now on Medicaid

Federal officials say the delays should not impede care for the backlogged applicants because Medicaid coverage can be extended retroactively. However, Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, says the lack of coverage could hinder care because "often the provider will not see [patients] if [patients] do not have a Medicaid card."

According to the Washington Post, the backlog includes many applications that have not yet exceeded the federal deadline of 45 days for processing, although some have been pending for as long as eight months.

Three governors want Medicaid expansion. Here's why they can't get it.

The backlog has affected both states that decided to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and those that did not to varying degrees. For example, Georgia officials said the state only started to receive applications from in May. However, CMS spokesperson Aaron Albright notes that the exchange site has made improvements and can now quickly process applicant information for all but three states: Alaska, Kansas, and Maine.

Meanwhile, some states also are reporting their own technological glitches and understaffing, among other issues. For example, some states modernized their Medicaid eligibility systems more quickly than others, which might account for why they were better able to process applicants, Dorn says (Galewitz, Washington Post, 6/7).

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