Advocacy groups file civil rights complaint over Florida's post-pandemic Medicaid process
The groups say the state's process for redetermining coverage eligibility is unfair to recipients who are Latino, immigrant or Black.
Thirteen advocacy groups have jointly filed a civil rights complaint against Florida.
The groups say Florida's process for redetermining Medicaid eligibility is unfair to recipients who are Latino, immigrant or Black.
Some 431,000 Florida residents -- including many children -- have lost Medicaid since May, when the state began unwinding the continuing coverage mandated during the pandemic.
The Kaiser Family Foundation says about half were no longer eligible. The other 49% were dropped for failing to complete the renewal process.
Stan Dorn, health policy director for UnidosUS, one of the groups filing the complaint, says the state has made that process difficult for many people of color and immigrants.
"What we've said that Florida has done is they're not giving people in the state who are Latino, who are immigrants, who are African-Americans, equal access to health care in the way that federal law requires," he said.
The complaint points toan April letter from the U.S. Department Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights stressing legal requirements to address communication in different languages and the needs of recipients who are disabled.
Dorn says scores of minorities frequently have a harder time reapplying for Medicaid – often due to the services not employing enough Spanish and Haitian Creole-speaking workers.
"There's no compelling need for making your website inaccessible to smartphones for making parents wait 2½ hours to talk to someone in Spanish at the call center and for saying we're not going to bother to translate training videos into any language other than English."
Policies that in effect deny access to federal benefits based on race or national origin are illegal unless there's a compelling need for them, Dorn said.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act forbids a state agency – for instance – that receives federal dollars from discriminating based on race or country of origin.
In a recent update, the Florida Department of Children & Families, which reviews Medicaid eligibility, touts the state's outreach efforts and says 89% have responded to redetermination requests.
As of May, two-thirds of Florida's children were enrolled in Medicaid.
Information from WLRN was used in this report.
Copyright 2023 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.