What eligible TennCare members need to do to stay covered in 2023

Tennessee officials are urging TennCare and CoverKids members to update their contact information and respond to all communication from the agency as state Medicaid programs prepare to reverify enrollee eligibility for the first time in three years.

Congress passed legislation in December to end the Medicaid continuous enrollment requirement on April 1. The requirement, which is a provision of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, was implemented in March 2020 to bar state Medicaid agencies from disenrolling members regardless of eligibility in light of the COVID-19 public health emergency. In turn, the federal government increased its contribution to states for the duration of the provision.

Starting April 1, TennCare and other state Medicaid agencies across the U.S. will be required to reverify the eligibility status of everyone receiving benefits. The change affects more than 1.7 million low-income Tennesseans enrolled in TennCare. Some of them will no longer qualify for coverage for various reasons, such as changes to their income level or health insurance status.

(READ MORE: Tennessee's Medicaid adult dental benefits start Jan. 1. Here's what you need to know.)

For everyone who's still eligible, a news release from TennCare said it's imperative enrollees ensure the agency has their up-to-date contact information in order not to risk a gap in health care coverage.

While some members will be automatically renewed based on other available data sources, the rest will receive a renewal packet by mail or a notification by email, depending on the selected preference, according to a news release.

"We want all eligible members to remain eligible, but eligibility is dependent upon providing the necessary information," TennCare Director Stephen Smith said during recent budget hearings.

TennCare's enrollment has grown by roughly 21%, or 300,000 individuals, due primarily to the continuous enrollment requirement, Smith said at the hearing. Now that eligibility verification is set to resume, he said TennCare enrollment is expected to peak in June and then gradually decline throughout the 12-month redetermination process.

TennCare is the state and federally funded health insurance program. Many of its clients are women, children and people with disabilities.

(READ MORE: More Tennesseans got health insurance during pandemic, but some may soon lose coverage)

Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said in a phone interview that she's concerned the TennCare renewal process will be confusing and cumbersome, leaving some of the state's most vulnerable residents without needed coverage.

The news release said members will be able to complete renewal packets either online, by phone, by mail, by fax or at any county Department of Human Services office.

"For nearly three years, TennCare has carefully planned for the end of the (public health emergency) and the resumption of renewals. The agency worked to improve TennCare Connect, the online portal where members can update their information and renew their coverage, as well as improved the mobile application for easier document submission," the release states. "TennCare has also worked to increase the number of members who can be approved through the autorenewal process."

(READ MORE: Tennessee making TennCare changes after federal officials raise concerns)

TennCare members can verify their address on record at bit.ly/TNCareConnect or by calling 855-259-0701.

More information for members can be found at bit.ly/TennCare23.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.