Economist warns ‘growth recession’ could keep Medicaid enrollment high

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As of June 30, there were 5.345 million in the Medicaid program.

State Medicaid officials have anticipated hundreds of thousands of people can be disenrolled from the health care safety net health care program for the poor, disabled and elderly when the COVID-19 public health emergency expires.

But the state’s top economist on Friday warned Florida may not be able to disenroll as many people as quickly as previously thought.

Office of Economic and Demographic Research Director Amy Baker said Friday there is the potential for a “growth recession,” or a prolonged period of significantly below trend real gross domestic product growth.

“Right now, they could be disenrolled. But six months from now their situation might have changed and there could be a little upward pressure on that,” Baker remarked at a meeting of state economists. The economists routinely meet to project future enrollment and costs for the state Medicaid program.

The enrollment and cost projections are used to help guide budgeting decisions made by the state Legislature and the Governor’s Office.

Economists had previously projected Florida’s Medicaid enrollment would climb to nearly 5.1 million people by June 30, 2023. Assuming the public health emergency would expire this summer, economists agreed enrollment would plummet to 4.89 million people by June 30, 2024, and 4.8 million people by June 2025.

Economists are meeting to update those projections. Once enrollment projections are updated, the economists will meet again to update projected costs.

The latest available data show that as of June 30 there were 5.345 million in the Medicaid program. It’s the largest enrollment in the history of the program, and is due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic and the federal government’s declaration of a public health emergency. Currently, the additional funding is expected to continue to flow into the state until Dec. 31, which is halfway through the 2022-23 state fiscal year.

So long as the public health emergency remains in effect, the federal government has upped by 6.2% the amount of money it gives to states to help finance the program.

The increase has brought billions of additional funding into the state for health care, but it comes with restrictions; namely, a prohibition on disenrolling anyone from the Medicaid program who was eligible for coverage due to the pandemic.

The coverage mandate expires when the state stops accepting the additional 6.2% increase in federal funds.

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