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Thousands of Floridians kicked off Medicaid, experts say most of them were still eligible

Until very recently, the separate company that runs the emergency department at Nashville General Hospital was continuing to haul patients who couldn't pay medical bills into court.

There are about 250,000 people who have lost Medicaid coverage since Florida began its redetermination process earlier this month, however, many of those people could still be eligible.

In April, state governments were allowed to begin checking people's eligibility for Medicaid due to the expiration of the continuous enrollment provision, which ended on May 1. The federal government instilled the provision at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 as people were losing jobs and health insurance coverage. In Florida, the number of individuals and families seeking Medicaid assistance rose from 3.8 million to 5.5 million between March 2020 and last November. About two-thirds of that 5.5 million total are children, according to the Georgetown Center for Children and Families.

State data show that 10% of those who lost coverage were terminated because they were ineligible or hadn’t used Medicaid over the past 12 months. However, 82% of people lost coverage for procedural reasons, also known as "red tape" reasons, such as not having responded to mail, having outdated contact info, or computer glitches.

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Joan Alker, Executive Director and research professor at Georgetown Center for Children, said the majority of terminated cases include families with children. Many of them appear to be learning about their lost coverage while trying to access care from a provider.

"Parents and Caregivers could lose coverage for their children simply because of a language barrier, a recent move, or something as innocuous as a new phone number," Alker said. "Unfortunately, parents may fall into the coverage gap. But most children will likely remain eligible for Medicaid."

Who is most affected?

The Florida Health Justice Project found those who have already lost coverage include families with children who have complex medical issues and are now threatened to pay for procedures out of pocket.

Erica Monet Li, a public health expert at the Florida Policy Institute, FPI has found that many who have lost coverage were unaware they were terminated from Medicaid.

"We owe it to these Floridians to figure out what's going on," she said. "We have to keep in mind as was also stated earlier that the pandemic uprooted so many lives, and those who have moved might not have received the proper notices."

Additionally, the interruption of healthcare services in the Medicaid unwinding is expected to impact minority communities much more heavily, said Lavon Brown, a research director at the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition. This includes children suffering from high cholesterol due to obesity and those in need of diabetic medication.

"It will further delay health services to this underserved population," she said. "It will worsen the health status of many children and their families. The net result will be a higher cost to health care to the country in the long run and a worse health outcome to these populations."

A call to pause action

As a result, 52 Florida health policy centers and healthcare organizations, including the Florida Policy Institute, signed a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis urging the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to pause Florida’s current Medicaid redetermination process

The pause would allow DCF and other experts a chance to review why such a large rate of people lost coverage under red tape reasons.

The Florida Policy Institute said in its letter to DeSantis that its received reports of "Floridians being disenrolled from Medicaid without having received notice from DCF, as was outlined by DCF in the Florida Medicaid Redetermination Plan."

Florida reports that 145,000 cases were rolled over into the next month. Alker said that will stress out the process further, which will examine over 5 million cases in a year’s time.

Copyright 2023 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Joe Mario Pedersen
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