Florida's Medicaid Redetermination Issues, Coverage Losses in Spotlight
Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Health policy experts are highlighting a multitude of concerns regarding Florida's Medicaid Redetermination process, claiming it results in a lack of coverage for eligible children and families.
During a media call on Tuesday, advocates argued despite the Florida Department of Children and Families' stated plan to manage the unwinding of the public health emergency, the reality has been marked by chaos and confusion.
Official data released in late July by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show in the first month after federal continuous coverage provisions for Medicaid ended, 249,427 Floridians were disenrolled, 82% of whom had their cases closed for procedural or "red tape" reasons, such as failure to respond to a notice.
Erica Monet Li, policy analyst for the Florida Policy Institute, said the state's call center wait time ranks among the worst of the 17 states initiating redeterminations in April.
"48% of the calls made to DCF were abandoned and the average wait time for an initial contact was 40 minutes before being pushed to another helpline," Monet reported.
The Florida Department of Children and Families has issued guidance on its website, however, advocates say some links to legal aid are not working, language translation from English to Spanish is confusing and needs improvement, and they said the website needs to be modernized with a mobile-friendly option to make it easier for Floridians to navigate.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, every state must unveil a strategy to streamline re-enrollment and reduce coverage losses.
Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, noted a mechanism called "ex-parte" renewals, intended to simplify income-based verification and auto-renewals, is only being implemented in Florida at approximately 19%.
She expressed concern the state's processing methods might warrant investigation.
"Because Florida has a low ex-parte rate and a relatively high share of children, certainly Florida may be one of the states that is being investigated for this issue and we expect CMS enforcement to follow," Alker noted.
Advocates said it is difficult to navigate such a complex process and are calling on Florida officials to issue a pause in redeterminations until they fix the problems or able to properly execute the state's plan.
Lynn Hearn, staff attorney for the Florida Health Justice Project, which has a dashboard on its website for tracking the redetermination process, said the group is hearing many stories of people being confused about notices from the state.
"The notice also does not clearly indicate how to appeal or correctly," Hearn asserted. "The appeal instructions are deep in the notice, after a multipage notice, after a full page of QR codes for potentially other irrelevant other programs."
Florida is the only state to not take advantage of the flexibilities offered by the Centers for Medicaid to remedy common issues and the groups are urging Florida's leaders to focus on fixing current problems to ensure the state's eligible children and families are not cut out of any needed coverage.
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