Is It Time To Renew Your Medicaid Benefits?
Prepare your AHCCCS application for benefits early
If you are on Medicaid, you usually reapply each year to continue receiving benefits. For the last two years, due to the public health emergency (PHE) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, you didn’t have to. And you didn’t pay any premiums for KidsCare. The PHE, unless extended, is scheduled to end on July 15, 2022. That means get ready — you will have to reapply for your benefits in order to continue receiving Medicaid.
So let’s talk about Medicaid. What it is, why you may want it and the information you need to apply for it. To get the answers, we talked with Cynthia Gonzalez, Executive Assistant at Helping Families in Need, a nonprofit organization in Phoenix with offices located across the metro area.
The Medicaid agency for Arizona residents is called Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). This program is income-based and has certain requirements that applicants must meet in order to qualify.
“Through AHCCCS,” Gonzalez said, “all of your health services are covered. You can have a primary care provider to go to. You can be referred to a specialist. You can receive treatment. You can receive mental health services.”
The services are available for newborns all the way to the elderly. There are a lot of great services for everyone, including dental for kids. Families that earn more than the AHCCCS income cutoff may be eligible for KidsCare, which does have a premium.
“Right now,” said Gonzalez, “due to the public health emergency, all premiums are waived. The Medicaid agency is going to start unwinding that public health emergency act and start sending out notices.”
These notices, a letter from Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES), will let you know it’s time for you to reapply for AHCCCS. To do this, you must submit current information requirements.
“Updated income,” Gonzales went down the list, “members in your household, proof of residency that you still reside in Arizona, exact address of where you live. These letters are sent to get current information for the reapplication to see if you are still eligible.”
You don’t want to misplace or ignore this letter. If you receive it, you must reply by the date given on the letter (dates may vary). Even if you don’t have any changes, you will be required to fill out an application and sign off on it.
“If you get a notice for renewal to submit information,” Gonzales explained, “it is so important to respond to this letter. It’s information the agency needs to continue and renew your benefits. If you don’t respond, Medicaid will take it as you either no longer reside in Arizona or no longer need health insurance benefits through Medicaid.”
You might not get that letter because you’ve moved. If so, you can update your contact information right now on the AHCCCS website (information below) to make sure you get your letter telling you when to apply. If you do not get a letter — and this is important, so tell your family and friends — it is still your obligation to apply for benefits.
“You will run the risk of losing your benefits if you do not apply with your updated information,” Gonzales advised. “Right now the only information Medicaid has is old information, and that’s enough reason for Medicaid to disqualify you even if you are eligible based on the income requirements because it’s old, outdated information.
You can go directly to AHCCCS to apply online or the phone. If you need assistance, a community partner assistor such as Helping Families in Need (HFIN) can help. They have certified application assistors whose whole purpose is to help you apply for AHCCCS.
“The application is a little complex,” Gonzales advised. “If you don’t understand the questions or don’t answer correctly or are confused, that will prompt the system to ask for additional documents. If those documents are not provided, you can be denied. So it just becomes really difficult to bypass that. If you get stuck, we can always help guide you through it, or you can call us and we can do it.
“Personally,” Gonzales continued, “I think going through a community partner is best. You can get a one-on-one appointment with an assistor. They know the requirements, the eligibilities, what documents have to be submitted. They speak Spanish, and they really help you throughout the process.”
How to Apply
Are you ready? Start by making sure AHCCCS has your most current contact information. Then get your required information together so you’re ready to apply when you receive the letter from DES.
For more information about AHCCCS and the application process, reach out to AHCCCS or HFIN directly: