TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation is working to ensure its citizens enrolled in SoonerCare and Medicaid Expansion don’t lose coverage as the COVID-19 emergency comes to an end.

During the pandemic, Medicaid agencies were required to keep health insurance coverage for patients, even if their eligibility changed or they no longer qualified.

That continuous Medicaid enrollment ended March 31, and now states are restarting full Medicaid and CHIP eligibility renewals and terminations of coverage for individuals no longer eligible. 

In Oklahoma about 270,000 are reported to possibly lose coverage and the Cherokee Nation estimates the public health emergency unwinding could affect as many as 3,000 tribal citizens.

Cherokee Nation through its Patient Benefit Coordinators in health are reaching out to ensure tribal citizens renew and remain covered. If a Patient Benefit Coordinator leaves a message, it’s important that the patient returns the call. Those unsure about their continued coverage are being asked to reach out to the tribe’s SoonerCare hotline at 1-844-749-4263 for continued coverage.

“It’s critical that our citizens have health coverage for their families and bridge any gap for necessary specialty medical care or emergencies that should arise outside our health system,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “The Cherokee Nation, thanks to our Health Services Patient Benefit Coordinators, has spent years working to get Native families enrolled and we must ensure these families have that continued coverage during the coming months.”

The state of Oklahoma has restarted its eligibility reviews for all SoonerCare and Medicaid Expansion members and The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) and Cherokee Nation are working to notify those impacted. 

“OHCA is currently in the processes of sending out a series of letters to impacted participants. The first letter informs those who are impacted that renewals are restarting. The second letter will include the participant’s coverage end date and the reason for ineligibility and the third letter will be sent out 45 days before their coverage end date,” said Cherokee Nation Health Services Executive Director Dr. R. Stephen Jones “The fourth and final letter will be sent 10 days before coverage ends. This will be the last opportunity for participants to update their information and renew their application.”

In addition to the letters from OHCA, Cherokee Nation Patient Benefit Coordinators (PBCs) are contacting patients who are at risk of losing coverage to assist them with possibly renewing their eligibility. 

“Patient Benefit Coordinators play a critical role in the growth of our health system because they work with patients to find them resources such as Medicaid or other insurance plans,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “Cherokee Nation takes care of all tribal citizens at no cost to the patient, so helping our patients find insurance lets us do more with our health care dollars by expanding services and stretching contract health funds further than ever before.”

Cherokee Nation collects third-party billing for health services from insurance companies and other pay sources, such as Medicaid and reinvests 100 percent of those funds into Cherokee Nation Health Service programs and services for citizens.

Patients should check their mail regularly and make sure their contact information is up to date by contacting their local PBC via the tribe’s hotline (1-844-749-4263) or https://health.cherokee.org/services-and-programs/patient-benefit-coordinators/