New Jersey remains concerned at loss of Medicaid among Latinos

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, officials suspended the annual re-enrollment for the state’s Medicaid program. But when the public health emergency ended last spring, New Jersey began a mandatory Medicaid eligibility review for its more than 2 milllion beneficiaries.

The bulk of those reviews have been completed, but more than 200,000 New Jersey residents, many of them Latino, have not even started the process. State health officials are concerned.

By the beginning of March, 454,833 NJ FamilyCare members had successfully re-enrolled in the program, 240,870 individuals were automatically renewed (including those with special needs and foster children), 620,952 people are currently waiting to find out if they will be renewed and 221,130 members have not yet started the process.

State officials said 473,050 previously covered individuals have been denied coverage because they may have not met salary eligibility requirements, or because they may have gotten new health insurance through a new job.

Officials believe a significant number of people may have either gotten other insurance or moved out of state.

How to re-enroll in Medicaid

  • Check your mail. Did you get a letter from NJ FamilyCare that it’s time to renew? If so, follow instructions and don’t delay
  • If you’ve moved or lost the letter, you can call NJ FamilyCare at 1-800-701-0710
  • If members have questions, they should call the managed care provider’s customer service number on their ID cards

Anya Nawrocky, director of member experience and growth for Wellpoint New Jersey, one of five managed care organizations that serve people in the state’s Medicaid program, said many who signed up for coverage during the pandemic may not understand they are required to renew their benefits.

“They won’t realize it until there is a point of crisis in their health care journey and come to a hospital, they come to a doctor and they’re not well and they realize, ‘Oh my God, I don’t have insurance,’” she said.

Department of Human Services Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Langer Jacobs said the re-enrollment process has been a huge undertaking. Officials have made phone calls, sent postcards and emails and launched text message and social media campaigns to reach the community.

“We had billboards out there, we had upwards of 2,000 events out in the community, really trying to let people know that it was time to pay attention to Medicaid eligibility,” she said.

Nawrocky said it’s been a challenge to connect with the Spanish-speaking populations because of the language barrier.

“Materials have gone out, you hope they are seeing the materials they need to assist them,” she said. “People were very transient during the public health emergency; they moved addresses, they may not get their paperwork in a timely manner.”

Langer Jacobs said people who had not responded in a timely manner were targeted in a follow-up information campaign.

“To those members we were saying, ‘Hey, we’re concerned we haven’t heard from you,’” she said. “If you want to keep your NJ FamilyCare coverage, you really need to respond right away.”

New Jersey allows children of undocumented parents to enroll for coverage. Wanda Brauner, a Wellpoint New Jersey community relations representative, said parents need to provide information about family income to sign up for the benefits, which can be challenging because of deportation concerns.

“They’ll tell me, ‘Well, I only want to apply for my child, you don’t need my information.’ It’s because they’re nervous. I let them know that NJ FamilyCare is 100% safe,” she said.

She said outreach efforts have been ongoing for months in schools and community and religious centers, but many people are still confused.

“They don’t really understand that they need to show proof of income every year to continue the benefit,” Brauner said.

An estimated 440,000 undocumented Latinos are believed to be living in New Jersey.

Medicaid renewal paperwork is sent out 75–90 days before it must be renewed. Individuals who wind up losing their NJ FamilyCare coverage in New Jersey can apply for emergency Medicaid.

Langer Jacobs noted in cases where data is available through different state systems, some individuals, including those with special needs and children in foster care, had their Medicaid coverage renewed automatically and were told they did not have to reapply.

Anyone with questions can speak with a NJ FamilyCare health benefits coordinator at 1-800-701-0710.