Medi-Cal renewal starting again after pandemic hiatus
Just over one million San Diegans are enrolled in Medi-Cal, which offers health coverage to low-income residents. And for the past three years, they have not had to reenroll because early in the pandemic, Congress passed a law that prevented states from dropping people from their Medicaid rolls. However, that law expired on March 31. In June Medi-Cal recipients could see their coverage lapse if they don't renew.
Local health officials do not want to see those eligible for the program see a lapse in coverage, so they're working to ensure current Medi-Cal recipients know when and how to renew their benefits.
Not everyone will have to seek a renewal at once — San Diego County officials said renewal time is based on the month when someone first applied. For those due in June, information is being sent out this month to make sure their contact information is up to date.
"We are going to be reaching out in phases to our customers to ensure that, 'hey you should have received a packet and if you didn't receive a packet — contact us and give us your new address,'" said Alberto Banuelos, assistant director of San Diego County's Office of Regional Self-sufficiency.
Actual renewal applications for those who registered in June will go out later this month. Banuelos said when it comes time for that, people will get a bright yellow packet in the mail. Over the last three years some San Diegans with Medi-Cal may have moved and not updated their addresses, but Banuelos said the county is working with health partners and is confident they can reach people by mail, phone or text messages.
"We feel comfortable that we have a good, strong marketing campaign to get the information out," he said.
The state estimates up to three million Californians could lose coverage because they do not qualify anymore or miss reapplying. Health plans and clinics are helping get the word out about the renewal process.
"We never want a patient to ever feel like they can't access services they need," said Victoriano Diaz, director of patient engagement and enrollment at Family Health Centers of San Diego. "Many of our patients have chronic health issues — they can’t afford to have a lapse in coverage."
Diaz said a majority of the patients at Family Health Centers are on Medi-Cal or some other type of assistance program. His team is also working to notify people about their re-enrollment dates.
"We want to make sure that patients are aware that there are different events that might affect their Medi-Cal," Diaz said. "During COVID they might have gotten a new job or they might have moved and we want to make sure they're able to get their information. If they've moved that renewal) packet might go to the wrong address."
Diaz said bottom line — pay attention to the notices coming in the mail. The county has set up a hotline for people with questions about the renewal process, especially those who may be doing it for the first time. That number is 1-866-262-9881.
"Most of those questions are: 'when is my renewal due?'" Banuelos said about calls into the hotline. "Because again — it’s been three years since they’ve done them — so you just have to remind them, 'It’s okay, relax we will communicate with you, we will assist you.'"
If someone is ineligible for Medi-Cal, Banuelos said the county can help connect them to another health plan including low cost options with Covered California.