About 40,000 Minnesotans will lose government-funded health insurance coverage by month’s end, state officials said Thursday, because they failed to provide information needed to verify that they qualify for programs.

The number of drops were within the expected range, officials said, as the state Department of Human Services works through a backlog of 180,000 renewals that were delayed earlier this year with problems in the MNsure IT system.

“Enrollees who did not respond to multiple requests for information will have their cases closed effective August 31st,” state officials wrote in a Thursday letter to legislators. “Historically, about 30 percent of all renewals fail to respond to request for information with a large number returning to the programs within three months.”

The problem with renewals first surfaced in May, when the Star Tribune reported that about 55,000 renewal cases in the Medicaid and MinnesotaCare programs had been held up due to technical problems between the MNsure system and a federal data hub.

By July, state officials said the backlog had grown to 180,000 cases. That prompted the Department of Human Services (DHS) to seek assistance from county government workers who help administer the public health insurance programs.

Medicaid covers people with incomes near or below the poverty line, with MinnesotaCare covers those with slightly higher incomes.

MinnesotaCare renewals are supposed to happen at the beginning of the year, while Medicaid beneficiaries renew 12 months after their start date on the program. Failure to do timely renewals raises the chance some might be getting coverage when they don’t qualify.

Of the 180,000 backlog cases, about 27,500 cases remain, said Nathan Moracco, a DHS assistant commissioner. The plan is to get the remaining backlog cases done by the end of September.

Most people in backlog cases have been successfully renewed into coverage, Moracco said, although he didn’t have a precise count.

“Going forward, we’re really more or less back to status quo from a processing perspective,” Moracco said. “The federal hub is now working, and we’re basically processing current months on a timely basis.”

DHS uses MNsure as the new IT system for determining eligibility and getting people enrolled in public health insurance coverage. In the letter to lawmakers, DHS officials wrote that they are still looking at how to handle “cases that may have received erroneous auto-renew eligibility redeterminations through the federal hub when it was experiencing data transfer issues.”

Getting the backlog resolved has been a priority for several reasons, including changes for 2016 in the lineup of managed care organizations in the state’s public health insurance programs. New contracts announced in July mean that about 475,000 enrollees need to pick a new health plan for next year, or they’ll be automatically assigned to a plan.

State and county workers expect to field a lot of questions from enrollees about the change, so the goal was to handle most renewals before the period for selecting new plans starts next week.

“It certainly helps, but that’s not to say that we don’t still have work to do,” Moracco said.

To help counties, DHS will handle much of the initial communication and enrollment duties that come with enrollees selecting plans, Moracco said.

 

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck