CMS Posts May 2023 Unwinding Data

In this snapshot dated August 2023, CMS reports on certain unwinding metrics based on May 2023 data. Those metrics include:

  • Percent and number monthly change in total Medicaid enrollment;
  • Current month and monthly change in applications processed over 45 days; 
  • Current month and monthly change in average call time; and
  • Current month and monthly change in abandonment rates.

A scan of the state maps quickly reveals a mixed bag. Some states report increases and others report decreases on these metrics. This is no surprise. The most recent data is for May when not all states were processing terminations. So, we would expect that some states would be moving in one direction and others in the opposite. With the 3-4 month data lag in the CMS released data, it is still too early to see the full impact of the unwinding since many states were not yet processing disenrollments in May.

You’ve heard it before – if you’ve seen one Medicaid program, you’ve seen one Medicaid program. The same applies to the unwinding. To make the most use of key unwinding metrics, it may be helpful to focus on a specific state to identify areas of concern or to compare to national or regional trends/medians. States that are prioritizing data transparency in news releases, online posting and state dashboards provide more timely insight into the impact of the unwinding. CCF is tracking these data in our online interactive visualization of renewal outcomes data when they comport to CMS data reporting specifications.

Access to timely, reliable data is essential as a broad array of Medicaid stakeholders monitors the unwinding. But here we are on the last day of August and states have already reported June and July data to CMS yet only May data has been posted. It would be extremely helpful for CMS to accelerate its timeline for releasing these data. The ex parte renewal problem, disclosed earlier this week, also illustrates why having key metrics disaggregated by eligibility group, or at least by age, is critical since this deficiency largely impacts children. While we appreciate the Administration’s commitment to data transparency, we urge expediency in implementing improvements to the timeliness, thoroughness, and usability of the data. 

Ultimately tracking Medicaid enrollment as it declines, as it’s expected to, will indicate the net impact of the unwinding and re-enrollment efforts. CCF’s data team is working to improve and update state-level enrollment data to make it more useful in tracking children’s loss of coverage. Stay tuned for updates soon.

Tricia Brooks is a Research Professor at the Center for Children and Families (CCF), part of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.