Two consumer advocacy groups, The Florida Health Justice Project and the National Health Law Program, have filed a lawsuit in a Florida federal court on Tuesday. This suit aims to challenge the termination of Medicaid benefits for Florida residents, marking the first in the nation to contest states’ resumed practice of reviewing Medicaid enrollees’ eligibility.
Legal action was commenced for three residents of Florida, comprising of:
- A woman aged 25
- Her daughter aged two years, has been identified with cystic fibrosis
- A little girl who is just a year old.
The complainants contend that the state’s procedure for informing people is not up to par. More precisely, they argue that the written communications dispatched by the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families are perplexing and do not provide an ample rationale for the cessation of services.
Impact on the Residents
Due to these unclear notifications:
- Residents are struggling to understand the reason behind the termination of their Medicaid coverage.
- They face difficulties in deciding whether to contest this decision.
- Interruptions in essential medical care, including prescription drugs, children’s vaccinations, and post-partum care, are prevalent.
According to the lawsuit, since April:
- Roughly 183,000 Floridians have been notified about their ineligibility for Medicaid.
- An estimated 226,000 have lost coverage due to procedural reasons, often because of issues like non-completion of renewal applications.
The issue isn’t limited to Florida. Nationwide, as the Medicaid unwinding process progressed since spring:
- Over 5.2 million people have been disenrolled.
- About three-quarters were dropped due to procedural errors.
KFF, previously the Kaiser Family Foundation, reports that around 898,000 Florida residents have renewed their coverage.
Medicaid Call Centers Inefficient for Spanish Speakers
Wait Times Create Barriers
Spanish-speaking Floridians are facing challenges when reapplying for Medicaid coverage through the state’s call centers. According to UnidosUS, the most significant Hispanic civil rights advocacy group in the U.S.:
- Spanish speakers experience over two-hour delays, which is four times longer than English speakers.
- This delay is based on 40 calls made by UnidosUS during July and August.
- English speakers wait an average of 36 minutes, with the most extended wait being 50 minutes.
- About a third of the calls made by Spanish speakers get disconnected.
Tori Cuddy, a spokesperson for the Department of Children and Families, emphasized that nearly 92% of “Medicaid applications and redeterminations are filed through the state’s online portal,” available in English, Spanish, and Creole. However, Cuddy did not provide specific details regarding call center wait times.
Importance of Call Centers
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights mentions that call centers are vital, especially for people of color, as they are “less likely to have broadband and internet access.” The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expressed concerns about Florida’s reported call center wait times, emphasizing the importance of call centers in ensuring “equitable access to support.”
As Medicaid unwinding continues post-pandemic, clear communication and adequate support are crucial for beneficiaries, especially those in vulnerable communities. The current lawsuits and issues with call centers highlight the need for a more effective and efficient process that ensures equitable access to essential healthcare services.