The number of Mainers on MaineCare will exceed 400,000 for the very first time this spring, a milestone that comes as Maine is required to begin “unwinding” the COVID-19 Era expansion of the program.
A series of state and federal policies expanded Medicaid, known in Maine as MaineCare, in connection with the Public Health Emergency beginning in the spring of 2020. This included the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which offered states a 6.2 percent increase in Medicaid matching funding.
Every single state took the funding increase, but it came with a catch: so long as a state accepted the increased federal money, they would be barred from removing people from Medicaid or changing eligibility requirements.
That limitation caused Medicaid enrollment to swell to nearly 90 million as individuals who previously weren’t eligible could now join the program and could not be kicked off.
But a federal law passed in December has set a fixed date for the end of the expanded coverage: March 31.
Now, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services must review the eligibility of everyone currently enrolled in the program. States have 12 months to initiate these reviews and 14 months to complete them. Maine’s reviews will begin this April.
According to DHHS documents, the number of Maine residents on MaineCare is expected to grow to 420,000 by April.
Of the current population, 106,509 were been added to MaineCare as the result of state and federal policies that expanded the program to cover individuals not previously eligible, and 92,884 of those individuals are childless adults. Of the childless adults covered by MaineCare expansion, 35,728 are below the age of 29.
DHHS records indicate as many as 90,000 Maine residents will lose access to MaineCare benefits; however, the state estimates that 90 percent of those individuals will be able to get coverage either through an employer or CoverME.gov, a state-run program that offers subsidies for health insurance.
The Foundation for Government Accountability estimated in 2021 that the monthly cost of keeping ineligible individuals on the Medicaid rolls was more than $11.3 billion.