Florida agencies sued for unclear Medicaid termination notices

Three Florida residents have filed a federal lawsuit, claiming that state agencies are neglecting to adequately inform low-income and disabled individuals about the expiration of their public health insurance. This class-action lawsuit was submitted to the Jacksonville federal court by the Florida Health Justice Project and the National Health Law Program. The defendants in this case are the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

According to court records, the Florida Department of Children and Families Deputy Chief of Staff, Mallory McManus, stated via email that the agency’s letters to recipients meet the legal requirements. McManus further added that the Department’s redetermination plan, based on federal regulations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), has been approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Emphasizing the multiple steps involved in the eligibility determination process, McManus asserted that the final letter is only one form of communication from the Department.

Since April, when the COVID-19 policy prohibiting the removal of individuals from Medicaid concluded, over 182,000 Floridians have received termination notices. Additionally, the lawsuit claims that in the next year, hundreds of thousands more individuals are expected to lose their coverage. The residents argue that many of these low-income individuals are unaware of the state’s decisions or how to challenge the termination of their coverage. Consequently, they have requested an end to the current notification process and the reinstatement of coverage for those who received erroneous termination notices.

According to Sarah Grusin, an attorney for the National Health Law Program, the state agencies have been aware of the confusion surrounding the termination notices since 2018 but have continued to use them. As a result, many individuals have been left without coverage for critical care, prescriptions, vaccinations, and postpartum care. Grusin emphasized that ensuring proper due process requires the state to provide adequate and meaningful notice of its decisions, as well as the opportunity to challenge those decisions before coverage is terminated. Asserting that this is not happening, Grusin called for urgent action.

The National Health Law Program highlighted that this lawsuit is the first of its kind in the context of the nationwide Medicaid unwinding, which has led to the removal of nearly 4 million people from Medicaid across the United States since the spring. Amanda Avery, another attorney for the National Health Law Program, remarked that while the extent of Florida’s terminations is particularly alarming, similar patterns can be observed in many other states. Advocates have long warned that the conclusion of the COVID-19 public health emergency and the subsequent Medicaid unwinding process would result in substantial coverage losses for individuals who are still eligible for Medicaid. Avery concluded that this troubling situation is currently unfolding in real-time.

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