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One month in, SC leads in Medicaid disenrollment rates

Marcus Frieauff

Updated: On July 9, the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services responded to this story. The agency’s response is below the original story.

A month after the state began rolling back pandemic-protected Medicaid enrollments, South Carolina has the highest rate of disenrollments and among the most total disenrollments in the country, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

About 108,000 South Carolinians who had Medicaid coverage in May no longer do. That’s the fifth most disenrollments among states as of the end of the first week of July.

Kaiser numbers show that three out of every four completed reviews of Medicaid renewals in this state have led to residents losing their coverage since the beginning of June.

A caveat is that these numbers do not reflect renewals that are pending. But if they did, Kaiser would still expect the rate of disenrollment in South Carolina to be 47 percent.

South Carolina’s numbers are high out of the gate, Kaiser states, because the state is targeting people it considers to be no longer eligible or who did not respond to renewal requests during the pandemic, when coverage could not be terminated.

A full 93 percent of renewals denied were denied for “procedural reasons,” according to KFF. That’s the highest percentage in that category.

South Carolina is one of 10 remaining states with no Medicaid expansion. So is North Carolina. Georgia recently expanded access to Medicaid, but with a work requirement.

Response from SCDHHS:
We disagree with Kaiser’s methodology, which does include the number of people who remain enrolled while the state works on their eligibility case, as still enrolled.

This disagreement is the reason for the caveat that Kaiser has added to their site. South Carolina-specific information about Medicaid annual eligibility reviews is available on our dashboard.

Through July 6, we have reviewed 228,464 members for eligibility. Of those, 7,204 have been reviewed and determined ineligible, 96,899 have been disenrolled because the state couldn’t determine they were still eligible and they did not return their review form through any modality and 591 have been disenrolled because they did not fill our their review form completely or accurately.

This totals 104,694, meaning that as of those who were reviewed, 45.8 percent have been disenrolled (104,694/228,464).

This is a significant difference from how Kaiser has calculated their figure, which does not include those who remain enrolled while the state works on their eligibility case as enrolled despite the fact that the state continues to cover those individuals.

Scott Morgan is the Upstate multimedia reporter for South Carolina Public Radio, based in Rock Hill. He cut his teeth as a newspaper reporter and editor in New Jersey before finding a home in public radio in Texas. Scott joined South Carolina Public Radio in March of 2019. His work has appeared in numerous national and regional publications as well as on NPR and MSNBC. He's won numerous state, regional, and national awards for his work including a national Edward R. Murrow.