- Despite extensive efforts by Florida officials, approximately 10 percent of potentially eligible Medicaid recipients have not responded to repeated attempts to reapply for benefits.
- Relaxed eligibility rules for Medicaid during the COVID-19 pandemic are being redetermined for around 4.6 million Florida families.
- Progressive groups are exploiting the situation for political gain, claiming a healthcare crisis, but underlying data suggests that those who need health coverage are being taken care of.
New data available from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) reveals that Florida officials have gone out of their way to try to help eligible Florida families keep their healthcare benefits. But despite those efforts, about 10 percent of potentially eligible Medicaid recipients have not responded to repeated attempts to get them to reapply for benefits.
About 4.6 million Florida families who benefited from relaxed eligibility rules in place during the COVID-19 pandemic are scheduled to have their Medicaid eligibility “redetermined” this year. And without cooperation and input from those recipients, they’ll automatically be dropped from the program. That’s a large number, and Florida officials are doing all they can to lessen the impact on those who are otherwise eligible for the program.
Meanwhile, a coalition of progressive groups have banded together in an apparent effort to exploit the situation for political gain, claiming Florida faces a full-blown health care “crisis” and highlighting the numbers of children and low-income families who are the victims of “bureaucratic red tape.”
But in fact, an analysis by The Capitolist shows a situation well under control, where the so-called “red tape” can be easily overcome with only minimal effort by Medicaid recipients, and the actual number of those impacted by reverting back to pre-pandemic federal eligibility standards are mitigated by strong employment numbers and better income situations than just three years ago. For example, with Florida’s job market booming – the state’s unemployment rate is hovering near a historic low of 2.6 percent – many of those who qualified for Medicaid during the pandemic due to loss of employment income are employed and making enough money that they are no longer eligible for Medicaid benefits anyway. State estimates project about 20 percent of all current recipients fall into that category.
Another large swath of current Medicaid recipients could remain in the Medicaid program if they successfully complete the Medicaid redetermination process and meet eligibility requirements. Unfortunately, many of those, state records show, have ignored multiple notifications from the state that their benefits are scheduled to end, and haven’t taken the steps necessary to start the redetermination process. In all, DCF says that more than 152,000 people have been completely unresponsive to outreach efforts. But more than half of that number haven’t used the program in over a year – a strong indication that they may not need the benefits anymore.
Despite progressive rhetoric, none of those issues can be pinned on the state. DCF has 2,700 employees dedicated to the redetermination process and providing client support. The agency says those employees have answered more than 760,000 calls over the last two months, and that they’re processing Medicaid cases twice as fast as the federal standard requires.
While progressive groups like the Florida Policy Institute have highlighted “bureaucratic red tape,” the rules governing eligibility are incredibly forgiving. Recipients who fail to submit a redetermination have 90 days to submit a late application, and their coverage can be reinstated retroactively. That retroactive coverage also applies to those who claim they were incorrectly dropped from the program – such cases have 90 days to file an appeal or correct any errors.
As for claims of a so-called “tidal wave of coverage loss,” DCF data shows that millions of contact attempts have been made by the agency in an attempt to get potentially eligible Florida recipients to reapply for the program. Hundreds of thousands of current recipients have been contacted anywhere between 5-13 times, but have not responded to any of the state’s outreach attempts. DCF has sent 2.4 million text messages, 1.9 million emails, and 80,000 phone calls trying to get more people to do the bare minimum necessary to keep their benefits coming.
Despite the numbers of unresponsive and/or uninterested people, the data also shows that the outreach campaign is working. According to DCF’s records, their outreach has been significantly more effective than pre-pandemic redetermination response rates. DCF says their efforts over the last several months have yielded a response rate of 83 percent, nearly double the response rate to pre-pandemic attempts to get potentially eligible recipients to reapply for their benefits.
The agency also says they’re doing all they can to help find replacement health coverage for children and medically needy families. The rest have been redirected to apply for coverage through the federal marketplace.