There is good news for Missouri’s Medicaid program.  In the last few months, the program (called MOHealthNET in Missouri) has really turned the corner on a challenge the program faced in the recent year – a backlog in processing applications to the program.  However, in the last 4-5 months, concerted efforts by state workers, working hard with many around the state has led to a huge drop in the backlog.

As this figure shows, the number of days it is taking for an applicant to Medicaid to be processed appears to have dropped nearly in half from November 2014 until March 2015, the last month reported by the state, from 79 to 42 days.

[Source for this data: computed by author from: Missouri Missouri Family Support Division, MO HealthNet Division, "MONTHLY MANAGEMENT REPORTS", Table 10, July 2010-March 2015.]

This drop is quite significant, and also mirrors another statistic: the percentage of persons waiting more than 30 days for their Medicaid application to be processed: from November 2014 (when this percentage peaked at 79%), the percentage of applicants waiting more than 30 days has dropped to less than 50% for the first time since January 2014.

[SOURCE: computed by author from: Missouri Family Support Division, MO HealthNet Division, "MONTHLY MANAGEMENT REPORTS", Table 10, July 2010-March 2015.]

This is all significant because the Medicaid program uses a 30-day benchmark as a goal for processing applications.  Obviously the graphs show that in the period from Fall 2013 to fall 2014 something occurred causing a significant backlog in applications.  This has been the subject of significant discussion across the state, in the press, and in the MOHealthNET Oversight Committee, which this author Chairs.

The reason for this backlog is complicated and this author has discussed this earlier in a previous blog post, found here. Basically, the problems in Missouri occurred from a "perfect storm" of issues facing MOHealthNET, including staff cutbacks, the implementation of a new computer enrollment system right as the ACA was implemented, a reqorganization of the Department and other factors.

To the credit of the staff in the Department of Social Services, this staff has worked very hard in recent months to reverse this backlog, respond to advocates and state Legislators.

Given that the average time it takes for a MOHealthNET recipient is still over 30 days, and is not near the steady stated of roughly 15-20 days the program achieved priori to 2012, some progress still needs to be made.  However, state officials said last week that they are confident this progress will be made.

This is all important because every day a person waits for a Medicaid application to be processed creates hardship, for the people entitled to Medicaid coverage, for the providers entitled to payment.  The MOHealthNET Oversight Committee has heard testimony of individuals facing significant problems including medical debt, health problems, and stress as a result of the backlog.  However, it is quite encouraging that such significant progress is being made, and everyone working in the State of Missouri’s Department of Social Services is to be applauded for their hard work to resolve these issues on behalf of Missourians.