Starting Saturday, up to 15 million Americans could lose their Medicaid coverage as emergency measures implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic come to a gradual end. Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income individuals, is jointly managed by state and federal governments.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in March 2020, prevented states from terminating Medicaid coverage during the pandemic. Consequently, Medicaid coverage rose to over 85 million people as of December, representing a 25% increase from February 2020. However, as of Saturday, states can begin removing individuals who no longer meet pre-pandemic eligibility requirements, mostly based on income. A provision in the federal spending legislation in December allowed states to start disenrolling people from April 1.

States have up to a year to determine Medicaid eligibility for individuals and 14 months to either renew their coverage or remove them from the program, according to HHS guidance documents. HHS estimates that 15 million people may lose coverage as the program reverts to pre-pandemic eligibility criteria. Many of these individuals are likely to be eligible for other health insurance options.

HHS warns that these changes will disproportionately affect people of color and young people. Approximately 30% of those who could lose Medicaid coverage are Hispanic, and 15% are Black. Moreover, over 5 million children and 4.7 million adults aged 18 to 34 may lose Medicaid coverage.

An estimated 2.7 million people who may lose Medicaid coverage should qualify for tax credits under Obamacare health insurance marketplaces, with around 62% of them eligible for plans with no premiums. Another 5 million people are expected to obtain other forms of coverage, primarily through their employers.