JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri officials are citing an improved economy as one of several factors that led to close to 90,000 children being dropped from the state's Medicaid health insurance program in the past year, although some lawmakers are still unsatisfied with the explanation.
Acting Social Services Director Jennifer Tidball sought to explain why those children and 23,000 adults have lost coverage since July 2018 in a letter Monday to Republican state House Speaker Elijah Haahr.
In the letter, provided to The Associated Press by the Department of Social Services, Tidball in part attributed the drop to a decrease in unemployment in the state.
Tidball also cited improved efforts beginning in 2018 to purge Medicaid rolls of people who are not eligible, and she wrote that about a third of people who lost coverage didn't answer letters to renew their eligibility.
"DSS does not take lightly the caseload reductions seen since 2018," Tidball wrote. "However the department feels confident in its administration of Medicaid eligibility."
Tidball also noted that the agency ramped up staffing through a contractor to answer calls about Medicaid issues, but "is not satisfied" with the contractor's work. She said the department is working with the contractor to improve call wait times.
Social Services officials, including Medicaid Division Director Todd Richardson, briefed a group of House lawmakers about Medicaid rolls on Monday.
Haahr said the drop in enrollment wasn't a surprise to the agency, and that he's glad the department admitted to issues with the call center.
"I have asked Director Richardson to do what he can or let me know how the General Assembly can expedite the transition to provide Missourians with tools that will make sure our children are not stuck on bureaucratic hold to receive basic medical care," Haahr said in a statement.
But Democratic House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said she's still not satisfied with the agency's explanation and is concerned that Social Services is struggling to reach people to reauthorize their Medicaid enrollment.
She said when speaking with agency officials, it "was very apparent that there were lots of issues, from the call centers to folks not turning in their information."
"We need to get to the bottom of what is the best way to ensure that folks who qualify are receiving care," Quade said.
Quade renewed her call for a public hearing on the issue. Haahr did not immediately comment on whether he'll call for legislative hearings.