Nov 21, 2023 - Health

Colorado Medicaid disenrollments snag a well-connected lobbyist

Image of Colorado disability advocate Kenny Maestas, with a teal background and blue medical crosses

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Courtesy of Kenny Maestas

Kenny Maestas' experience facing disenrollment from Colorado's Medicaid program this fall shows just how difficult dealing with the system's red tape can be, even for the most plugged-in beneficiaries.

Zoom in: Maestas, 59, has used a wheelchair since a car accident in 1987 caused a severe spinal cord injury. He has been on Medicaid since the 1990s.

State of play: As a lobbyist for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, he's above the program's income eligibility limit but takes advantage of a special state buy-in for disabled adults who can pay monthly premiums to be on Medicaid.

  • Nonetheless, in October, he started getting calls from human services officials in the rural southeast Colorado county of Prowers where he lives, telling him that he made too much money to continue receiving benefits.
  • Maestas tried to explain that his coverage comes through the Medicaid buy-in program.
  • But he said the county representative wouldn't sign off on his coverage renewal without additional information, leaving him at risk of dropping off the program's rolls. He said they didn't believe he was on the buy-in program, and the experience felt like harassment.

What they're saying: "I knew I was right," he said, noting that the organization he works for helped get the Health First Colorado buy-in through the state legislature. "I know what I'm talking about."

  • Maestas was only able to set the record straight and get his coverage renewed with help from the executive director of the disability advocacy group where he works and other state officials he knows, he said.
  • "What they had to do was train the staff down here on the Medicaid buy-in," he said.

"It was stressful to find out that you know that you qualify [for benefits] and then to have someone intentionally tell you that you're not going to get them," Maestas told Axios.

The other side: Prowers County human services director Lanie Meyers-Mireles told Axios in a statement her office does not kick people off Medicaid, and added that when people apply or recertify it, the agency contacts people to obtain details to process the application.

  • She declined to comment specifically on Maestas, citing confidentiality.

Go deeper: States rethink Medicaid enrollment efforts as millions lose coverage

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