State Officials Respond to Criticism of Medicaid Review Process in Florida
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — State officials in Florida have faced backlash over their handling of the review process for the state’s Medicaid program. Critics argue that the process has been marred by poor communication and insufficient warning, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of Medicaid recipients.
Following the nation’s COVID-19 health emergency, Florida resumed its annual redetermination process for Medicaid recipients in April. Since then, the state has seen a decrease of over 9% in its Medicaid user base, which previously stood at nearly 5.8 million individuals.
One such affected individual, Liz Adams, expressed frustration over the lack of communication and sudden loss of coverage for her children. Adams stated, “I’m mad. I do not understand how they can do this to a child.”
Numerous Floridians, including Adams, have reported encountering confusing information, enduring hours-long wait times on the phone, and experiencing dropped calls during their attempt to seek clarification or resolve issues. Adams added, “There’s no one else I can talk to — not even the doctors’ offices can do anything.”
In response to the criticism, state officials defended their actions during a state Senate panel, asserting that the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families have been diligently working to streamline the redetermination process. Officials emphasized that the state has allocated a considerable workforce of 2,700 staff members and implemented a robust communications strategy, including the dispatch of millions of texts and emails, resulting in an 87% response rate.
Casey Penn, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, affirmed, “There was a significant allocation of resources and effort to ensure the success of this redetermination process. The department genuinely prioritizes the well-being of children and families in the State of Florida — our actions speak louder than words.”
However, fifty advocacy groups have expressed dissatisfaction, urging Governor Ron DeSantis to suspend redeterminations until substantial improvements are made. According to their estimates, tens of thousands of individuals have lost coverage and have not found an alternative solution. Notably, while 250,000 children were dropped from Medicaid, only 67,000 have registered for alternative state coverage.
Sadaf Knight, CEO of the Florida Policy Institute, highlighted the concerning gap between the disenrollment of children from Medicaid and their enrollment in KidCare, emphasizing the need for immediate action. Knight stated, “There are still tens of thousands of youth who are unaccounted for, and these numbers do not inspire confidence that children and families are seamlessly transitioning to other forms of care. This issue must be addressed promptly.”
During the Wednesday meeting, several Senate Democrats echoed the concerns raised by advocacy groups. Senator Tracie Davis (D-Jacksonville) acknowledged the complaints received from her constituents, emphasizing the need to address the issue of individuals struggling to connect with relevant authorities. Davis stated, “We can’t ignore the fact that people are calling our offices stating that they’re unable to get through. This is a matter that must be resolved.”
In contrast, Republicans viewed the presentation by state officials as a step in the right direction. Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart), the Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, expressed optimism regarding the progress made. Harrell said, “We’re learning as we go through this process. It’s not a simple task, but I believe we’re on the right track.”
As Florida continues its review process, expected to extend until March of next year, there is still considerable work to be done. The state indicated that as of September, 2.4 million individuals still required an eligibility review.
In conclusion, the Medicaid review process in Florida has come under scrutiny due to communication issues and sudden coverage loss for many recipients. While state officials have defended their efforts to improve the process, advocacy groups and Senate Democrats have raised concerns about the number of individuals left without coverage and the lack of seamless transitions to alternative care options. The ongoing review is expected to continue until March next year, with a significant number of individuals still awaiting eligibility review.