Keeping health care coverage, a key for those in recovery — and those seeking it
Recovery from substance use disorder requires a person to be able to focus on healing their whole self – mind, body and spirit. Having health care coverage is a critical resource that provides the help that you need to focus on your healing, without worrying about how you’re going to pay for it.
But for many Minnesotans, health care coverage could be expiring in the coming months due to the federal government’s end of COVID-19-related protections for public health care programs.
Like all states, during the COVID-19 pandemic Minnesota has maintained health care coverage for Minnesotans with low incomes and others enrolled in Medicaid. Before the pandemic, people enrolled in Medical Assistance (Minnesota’s Medicaid program) and MinnesotaCare would usually have their eligibility reviewed once a year to see whether they remain eligible. This process is called renewal. Renewals stopped during the pandemic to help Minnesotans access health care, and to keep people insured, as well as securing billions of federal dollars to help the state cover health care costs..
However, a federal law passed late last year requires state, county and Tribal workers to return to pre-pandemic procedures. This means that they must review the eligibility of more than 1.5 million Minnesotans who are currently on Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare by May 2024.
Now that Minnesota is required to restart renewals, it will be important for people enrolled in these health care programs to watch their mail closely. Minnesota does not yet have the ability to send renewal forms to enrollees digitally. Therefore people on Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare should make sure to be on the lookout for renewal information in their mailbox and understand the importance of sending the paperwork back as soon as possible with any necessary documents. Enrollees who have moved in the last three years should update their contact information right away, especially their address, to ensure they get this important paperwork in the mail. You can find out how to update your contact information, look up when to expect your renewal, sign up to receive text messages and learn more at mn.gov/dhs/renewmycoverage.
It’s important to note that people can access substance use disorder treatment even if they don’t have health care coverage, as Minnesota pays for treatment for people meeting financial eligibility requirements. In fact, more than two-thirds of substance use disorder treatment services in Minnesota are publicly funded, whether through Medical Assistance or the state’s Behavioral Health Fund. Eligibility for the Behavioral Health Fund is largely based on Medical Assistance income requirements, however, so if you are already enrolled in Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare, it will enable you to get help even faster.
While health care coverage is important for people who are early in their recovery journey, it is just as important for individuals who are established in their recovery. Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare cover costs for services like recovery peer support, medications like buprenorphine for Opioid Use Disorder and various outpatient services. But health care coverage also helps people in recovery in ways that are not as obvious. It helps people get preventive health care or see a doctor to find the right mix of mental health medications, or see a physical therapist to help with chronic pain. All of these things improve a person’s overall health and reduce the need for a person to self-medicate. For someone in recovery, that can make all the difference.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services is committed to ensuring that eligible Minnesotans retain their public coverage when annual renewal processes resume, and to helping Minnesotans who are no longer eligible for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare connect with other coverage options if needed. We look forward to partnering with the recovery community to keep our friends, neighbors and family covered and taking steps forward on their sobriety journey.
Kristine Preston is the deputy assistant commissioner of the Behavioral Health Division at the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
Dr. Nathan Chomilo, MD, FAAP, FACP, is the Medicaid and MinnesotaCare medical director at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and he practices as a general pediatrician in Brooklyn Center with Park Nicollet.
Last Updated on May 10, 2023