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Editorial & Opinion

A single UHIP update kicked 5,500 Rhode Islanders off Medicaid



Doing this in a UHIP update is so cruel. Healthcare means human lives. Just because Medicaid recipients may be low-income does not mean they are not human beings.

Tucked away in the Senate Fiscal Office’s report on the Governor’s budget, we learn that a single UHIP update kicked 5,500 Rhode Islanders off their Medicaid in November. That’s 5,500 people losing their healthcare. In a single UHIP update.

Medicaid terminations need to be done with some due process. They should not come from a notoriously glitchy computer system. You should have a chance to fight the decision to rip away your health insurance. When you lose your Medicaid with no warning and no effort to transition you onto the exchange, the consequences can be deadly. In a previous purge, one of my constituents was in cancer treatment. She only found out she was terminated when they gave her a $30,000 bill.

This is why it is so wrong to kick so many people off their healthcare in a UHIP update. Terminating such a large number of people needs to be done with due process, and it also needs to be done with enough social service work to transition the victims to the ObamaCare exchange. If you don’t know you were terminated, if there’s no work done to ensure you have continuous coverage, you can be trapped uninsured. That’s when truly horrific situations take place. And one letter is not enough. You need multiple notifications and actual social service work. There’s no way to do that kind of work when so many people are terminated all at once by a computer system.

And then there’s the question of whether the victims of this bulk termination really were all ineligible. The UHIP database is notorious for its glitches. Moreover, it is only as good as the information it has. Before you lose your health insurance, you deserve an opportunity to make sure that the information that forms the justification for the termination is correct.

In the previous Medicaid purges, you were supposed to get one letter and a 10-day warning where you had a chance to try and save your healthcare if the information behind the denial was incorrect. That’s still assuming you have the right address. Doing this in a UHIP update is so cruel. Healthcare means human lives. Just because Medicaid recipients may be low-income does not mean they are not human beings.

There are so many questions that need to be answered. Why did this not come out earlier? Why did the Raimondo administration not disclose this? Now that Raimondo hired the ProJo’s ace health and human services reporter Jennifer Bogdan to run her communications, are there enough reporters keeping track on UHIP? Who in the Raimondo administration knew about this? Who made the decision to do this? What on Earth is the justification? What safeguards were put in place to make sure no one who was actually eligible was terminated? What work was done to make sure that everyone who lost their coverage knew about it and got transferred back onto the exchange? What due process was offered to the Rhode Islanders who lost their health insurance coverage? What will we do to make sure this never happens again?

As I digest this budget, I’ll have much more to say about the tens of millions that this budget cuts from Medicaid, the cruel co-pays it imposes and raises on Medicaid recipients, and the devastating effects this will have on our healthcare industry.

But for now, what makes me most upset is the 5,500 people who just lost their Medicaid in a single UHIP update. Losing your healthcare in a UHIP update is so cruel. Rhode Island, we should be better than this.

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Sam Bell is a Democratic member of the Rhode Island Senate. His district contains the Providence neighborhoods of Mt. Pleasant, Federal Hill, Olneyville, Cathedral Square, Regency Plaza, and Manton Heights, along with most of Hartford Park, a small portion of Elmhurst, and the northern portion of the West End around Dexter Park.