Screenshot of Committee on Health Chair Vincent Gray speaking into a microphone.
D.C. Council

Many health professionals, policy analysts and D.C. residents used their allotted time during a Feb. 23 oversight hearing for the D.C. Department of Health denounce the D.C. Health Care Alliance requirement for beneficiary recertification every six months. The renewal policy for Alliance beneficiaries was subjected to intense scrutiny over the course of the four-hour hearing. 

The D.C. Health Alliance provides medical assistance to low-income D.C. residents who do not have health insurance but are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.  It does so regardless of immigration status, making it one of the few health safety nets for D.C. residents who are undocumented.  

Alliance beneficiaries must be recertified every six months. The renewal process is lengthy, and requires a face-to-face interview that can only be scheduled during normal business hours. The six-month recertification requirement began in 2011. “Alliance program enrollment continues to be well below its level before new, burdensome eligibility requirements went into place in October of 2011.” testified Jodi Kwarciany of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.  

Dr. Anam Whyne of Unity Health Care said that the complex recertification process often led to her patients’ being unable to renew their Alliance coverage in a timely manner, resulting in lapses in coverage. She said these lapses became more expensive for the system, as patients who lacked the medicine to control chronic illnesses began to need more complex, expensive interventions. 

During her testimony, Alicia Wilson, executive director of La Clinica Del Pueblo, explained that the number of D.C. residents who rely on Alliance could expand in the coming years should federal programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) end. “Thousands of D.C. residents who are currently working and receiving insurance through their employers, or purchasing insurance through their employers, or purchasing insurance through D.C. Health Link, will lose their work authorization and lose their insurance.” 

Watch the archived video of the hearing: