Without additional verification, thousands of area immigrants may lose ACA health coverage

     SEAMAAC outreach worker Zing Thluai has been helping people who receive notices submit requested immigration documents. She says some are confused, as they’d already submitted documents and are unsure whether their application is cleared. (Elana Gordon/WHYY)

    SEAMAAC outreach worker Zing Thluai has been helping people who receive notices submit requested immigration documents. She says some are confused, as they’d already submitted documents and are unsure whether their application is cleared. (Elana Gordon/WHYY)

    About 23,000 immigrants in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware region who signed up for health insurance through the new federal marketplaces could lose their coverage next month if they don’t submit additional documents.

    The announcement, that people must submit the specified documents by Sept. 5 or they’ll lose their coverage and any associated tax credits Sept. 30, has some area community groups scrambling to get the word out.

    It’s called an “inconsistency” or a “data matching” issue, according to Nancy O’Connor, regional  administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or CMS. She explains that’s when the federal marketplace needs more documentation to verify information on an application.

    It could be that someone submitted documents incorrectly or that CMS hasn’t been able to match them up yet.

    “This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem with someone’s eligibility,” said O’Connor. “It’s really just a matter of getting the additional citizenship or immigration information to associate with the application.”

    O’Connor says CMS has reached out multiple times through emails, calls and letters to about 300,000 people nationwide who still need to submit those documents.

    “We don’t want to lose people,” she said.

    Last week’s round of notices, warning that individuals have until Sept. 5 to respond, otherwise they’d lose their marketplace coverage on Sept. 30, went out to 12,600 people in Pennsylvania, 9,600 people in New Jersey and 700 people in Delaware.

    A network of area community groups has been trying to follow up and notify those they helped sign up for insurance in the first place.

    “I wish we had more time,” said Marieke Beck-Coon, a coordinator with Resources for Human Development, a main navigator organization in the Philadelphia region.

    Amy Jones, a health coordinator with the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition, Inc., based in South Philadelphia, says last week’s notices caught her group by surprise. She worries about there being “enough resources for something that could so greatly impact people.”

    While it’s hard to track exactly who is affected, Jones said her group is also trying to contact those they helped enroll with phone calls, emails and fliers in their primary language to make sure they understand what they need to do and the urgency of the notices (which are only in English and Spanish).

    For some, she said, the situation has been confusing.

    “We know that so many of our clients have tried to submit their documents many times, and they don’t get verification whether they were successfully received. And they continue to get notices and they continue to get frustrated,” she said.

    O’Connor, with CMS, says people can now check whether their application has been cleared by going online or by contacting the federal call center at 1-800-318-2596.

    The next open enrollment period, when one can sign up for coverage on the federal marketplaces, starts Nov. 15. 

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