With a new rule, federal officials say they are streamlining the Medicaid enrollment process in an effort to make it easier for people with disabilities to get coverage and keep it.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services finalized regulations this month simplifying the eligibility and enrollment processes for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Under the new rule, states must give individuals at least 15 days to provide additional information when they apply for coverage for the first time and 30 days to return paperwork for renewals. There is also a 90-day reconsideration period if coverage is terminated because beneficiaries fail to return information needed to determine re-eligibility.

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In addition, states will no longer be allowed to conduct renewals any more than once every 12 months and they will be barred from requiring in-person interviews for people with disabilities, among other changes.

Since Medicaid is operated by states, there is considerable variation in how it’s administered. The regulations are intended to bring more consistency and ensure access to the program for those who are eligible.

“This historic rule will simplify the process for people who are eligible for our nation’s health care programs to maintain their connection to their health care providers,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “It means less time and money spent on unnecessary processes and more effort dedicated to protecting vital coverage for eligible people.”

The rule comes at the urging of disability advocates who cited challenges faced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in accessing Medicaid, which many in this population rely on for both health care and home and community-based services.

“Medicaid eligibility and renewal is a complex, daunting task for beneficiaries,” said David Goldfarb, director of long-term supports and services policy at The Arc of the United States. “The final rule takes important steps in reducing administrative burdens put on people with disabilities and their families.”

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