Trends in Medicaid Enrollment and Disenrollment During the Early Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Wisconsin. Academic Article uri icon


  • IMPORTANCE: After the federal public health emergency was declared in March 2020, states could qualify for increased federal Medicaid funding if they agreed to maintenance of eligibility (MOE) provisions, including a continuous coverage provision. The implications of MOE provisions for total Medicaid enrollment are unknown. OBJECTIVE: To examine observed increases in Medicaid enrollment and identify the underlying roots of that growth during the first 7 months of the COVID-19 public health emergency in Wisconsin. DESIGN SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: This population-based cohort study compared changes in Wisconsin Medicaid enrollment from March through September 2020 with predicted changes based on previous enrollment patterns (January 2015-September 2019) and early pandemic employment shocks. The participants included enrollees in full-benefit Medicaid programs for nonelderly, nondisabled beneficiaries in Wisconsin from March through September 2020. Individuals were followed up monthly as they enrolled in, continued in, and disenrolled from Medicaid. Participants were considered to be newly enrolled if they enrolled in the program after being not enrolled for at least 1 month, and they were considered disenrolled if they left and were not reenrolled within the next month. EXPOSURES: Continuous coverage provision beginning in March 2020; economic disruption from pandemic between first and second quarters of 2020. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Actual vs predicted Medicaid enrollment, new enrollment, disenrollment, and reenrollment. Three models were created (Medicaid enrollment with no pandemic, Medicaid enrollment with pandemic economic circumstances, and longer Medicaid enrollment with a pandemic-induced recession), and a 95% prediction interval was used to express uncertainty in enrollment predictions. RESULTS: The study estimated ongoing Medicaid enrollment in March 2020 for 792777 enrollees (mean [SD] age, 20.6 [16.5] years; 431054 [54.4%] women; 213904 [27.0%] experiencing an employment shock) and compared that estimate with actual enrollment totals. Compared with a model of enrollment based on past data and incorporating the role of recent employment shocks, most ongoing excess enrollment was associated with MOE provisions rather than enrollment of newly eligible beneficiaries owing to employment shocks. After 7 months, overall enrollment had increased to 894619, 11.1% higher than predicted (predicted enrollment 805130; 95% prediction interval 767991-843086). Decomposing higher-than-predicted retention, most enrollment was among beneficiaries who, before the pandemic, likely would have disenrolled within 6 months, although a substantial fraction (30.4%) was from reduced short-term disenrollment. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this cohort study, observed increases in Medicaid enrollment were largely associated with MOE rather than new enrollment after employment shocks. Expiration of MOE may leave many beneficiaries without insurance coverage.

published proceedings

  • JAMA Health Forum

author list (cited authors)

  • Dague, L., Badaracco, N., DeLeire, T., Sydnor, J., Tilhou, A. S., & Friedsam, D.

complete list of authors

  • Dague, Laura||Badaracco, Nicol├ís||DeLeire, Thomas||Sydnor, Justin||Tilhou, Alyssa Shell||Friedsam, Donna

publication date

  • January 1, 2022 11:11 AM