With a plan to overhaul the enrollment process, federal officials say they are taking steps to make it easier for people with disabilities to gain Medicaid coverage and keep it.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is proposing a new rule designed to simplify the application and verification processes for people seeking coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program known as CHIP.

The regulation being published this week would standardize eligibility and enrollment for the programs, CMS officials said. Further, the rule would generally limit renewals to once a year, ensure that applicants have 30 days to respond to requests, create consistency in the renewal process across states and mandate that renewal forms be pre-populated.

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The move is intended to help individuals with disabilities and those from other underserved communities who are eligible for Medicaid but are not enrolled or have difficulty remaining part of the program “because of systemic barriers,” CMS said.

“This proposed rule will ensure that these individuals and families, often from underserved communities, can access the health care and coverage to which they are entitled — a foundational principle of health equity,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said.

The regulation would eliminate requirements for in-person interviews and impose a 90-day reconsideration period in cases where coverage is terminated because beneficiaries fail to return information needed to determine re-eligibility, among other changes.

Disability advocates said the proposed rule comes after they raised concerns with the Biden administration about the hurdles facing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, many of whom rely on Medicaid for both health care and home and community-based services.

“The bottom line is these proposed changes are going to help a lot of people navigate getting the benefits they need and keeping them,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “We frequently hear from people with disabilities and their families how incredibly overwhelming it is to get started, and once they have Medicaid or other federal health benefits, maintaining eligibility is a struggle due to red tape. We look forward to working with the administration to finalize these changes to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families.”

The proposal will be up for public comment through Nov. 7.

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