ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment last week announced steps KanCare members can take to reduce the risk of losing health coverage.
Officials with the Liberal Area Coalition for Families (LACF) and the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition (KBC) are working with local families sign up for Medicaid as well.
LACF Director Sarah Mersdorf-Foreman said with an application for KanCare Medicaid, coalition workers can determine assistance for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“Families can enroll either by phone with the help of one of our navigators or in person or at one of the events we have,” she said.
LACF Special Projects Coordinator Julie Foster said coalition members are taking calls, and those needing help can call 620-655-7177.
“The Seward County Health Department, we’re going to be there twice a month, and you can come in, meet with one of our benefits specialists who will help you go through the process of the Medicaid application,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, and since that time, Foster said KanCare clients have received renewals for their insurance.
“That’s been going on three years now,” she said.
The renewal process, Foster said, began earlier this month, when KanCare officials started sending out renewal letters.
“Families who didn’t have to report a change in their income now will have to, especially if you have moved within the last two or three years and have not reported that,” she said. “They’re not going to get their letters if they didn’t report that change.”
All of this is part of what KDHE calls the unwinding process from the pandemic, and Foster said it will be a lengthy process. However, LACF leaders are seeing families losing benefits.
“We’re going to be there to help them,” she said. “If we can help them through Medicaid, we can also take a look at Marketplace and enroll children and families through there if they’re no longer eligible to receive Medicaid.”
Normally, open enrollment for Medicaid and Medicare ends in January, but Mersdorf-Foreman said that deadline has been extended for this year for what is termed a qualifying life event. Therefore, those who experienced a loss of coverage can get new coverage.
Foster explained with no renewals being sent out during the pandemic, families were not required to report income or household changes.
“Now since that’s ending, they will have to report those changes,” she said. “It’s been two or three years, so there are lots of changes that have gone through a household that may or may not affect the family’s coverage.”
The unwinding the coalition leaders were talking about is from the public health emergency created by the pandemic. The emergency has long since ended, and Mersdorf-Foreman said it is up to other emergency officials to determine when such an emergency starts and ends.
“We just follow directives we’ve been given on how to assist families during that time,” she said.
Mersdorf-Foreman said as to when the unwinding process will end, that is determined by others.
“We just follow those requirements to get families the services they need,” she said.
Other than annual renewals, Foster said not much changed about KanCare during the pandemic.
“After COVID, you did not have to do that,” she said. “Now since that’s going to be starting again, that’s the biggest change. We just want to make sure families have the support they need because it is an unfamiliar process they’re going to have to go through again, and we want to make sure they have the assistance they need.”
Those who still live at the same address listed in their last renewal will simply complete a form to renew, but Foster said those who have relocated since the start of the pandemic will likely not receive a letter.
“Medicaid state mail’s not forwarded,” she said. “They’re not going to forward that mail to the next address, and if you didn’t call to report your change of address, you’ll most likely lose coverage. You’ll have to reapply and go through the whole process again. We can help you with that. We have to make sure people are aware they do need to call in and make that change of address if they have not.”
Mersdorf-Foreman encouraged anyone with questions to call LACF.
“If we don’t know the answer, we will look to find the answer and get back to them,” she said. “They would just be calling the main coalition number, and one of the benefit specialists will call you back.”
Also helping with the unwinding process is KBC, and Maternal Child Benefits Specialist Melissa Hernandez is providing assistance in several Southwest Kansas counties, including Clark, Finney, Ford, Gray, Hamilton, Hodgeman, Kearny, Lane, Meade, Morton, Ness, Scott, Stanton and Wichita.
Hernandez said she is available from 9 a.m. to noon Fridays at Russell Child Development Center in Garden City.
“If they are unable to make it to Russell, we set up an appointment at a later time,” she said. “It varies on the person.”
Hernandez said many who apply for KanCare seem to have a misunderstanding about the process.
“People can come,” she said. “I feel a lot of these people don’t want to apply because of their legal status, but it’s not to attack them.”
If available, Hernandez said applicants need to have their Social Security card. She said if a parent does not have a card, if children are resident or citizen, there should not be a problem.
“We want proof of where you live, citizenship and if they have a past history of bills for the last three months,” she said. “We need those and proof of income and if they receive child support or alimony if they’re divorced.”