Roughly 24,000 people were warned in mid-February they could lose Medicaid eligibility due to income requirements, with those cancellations set to happen mid-March right as COVID-19 is ramping up.

Louisiana Budget Project Executive Director Jan Moller says it would be hard to find a worse time to kick people off of Medicaid. He’s calling for the program to freeze all coverage suspensions.

“We are in a public health emergency right now. We don’t know how many people in Louisiana are going to get this virus, but we know that they need to be covered and we know that they need access to care when and if they do get sick,” says Moller.

The deadline to respond to the letter warning of cancellations passed in late February.

Moller says the new automated income eligibility check is punishing those who didn’t fill out the right paperwork, and those who make just over the 18,000 dollars a year max when they need it most.

“At times like this is when you put the paperwork requirements aside, you put the red tape aside, and you make sure as many people as possible have access to coverage which means that they have access to the care that they need,” says Moller.

Moller says kicking these folks off Medicaid isn’t just a risk to their health. He says Medicaid is populated by service industry people who interact with you every day.

“If you don’t have coverage then you are much more likely to go to work when you are sick carrying this virus, and you are going to be infecting people,” says Moller.

LDH Health Secretary Stephen Russo told the advocate when asked about the topic that “there has not been any talk that we would delay any of that.”