Georgia state officials said Tuesday that 30,000 residents will lose their Medicaid coverage for failing to respond to renewal notices. But lawyers of many of the recipients affected say their clients were dropped from coverage without ever having received those notices.
The state Department of Community Health (DCH) had initially reported in early June that 17,000 poor elderly or people with disabilities, who are “dual eligibles” also receiving Medicare benefits, would lose their Medicaid coverage. Those individuals will have until the end of August to renew their coverage.
But the DCH has not yet figured out how to address the additional 13,000 individuals who will be dropped from coverage.
“We are in the business of providing people support in their greatest time of need,” DCH Commissioner Frank Berry said in a statement to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “The best way to ensure we are serving the most vulnerable Georgians and are accountable to the taxpayer’s dollar is to ensure we are focusing resources on those who have established their eligibility for these programs.”
According to the AJC, the DCH admitted that some beneficiaries did not receive renewal notices, but added that the number is small, approximately 70 people. Lawyers, however, claim that the number is in the thousands. As the AJC reported, some individuals visited and made calls to state offices to get back their coverage, but were unsuccessful.
Those affected are recipients of Medicare — health insurance for people 65 or older and for certain people under 65 with disabilities — who also qualify for Medicaid, which covers low-income people or individuals with disabilities. The added coverage helps pay for costs not covered under Medicare, such as nursing home care or home-based services.
One of the lawyers involved in the case, Alisa Haber of the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline, told AJC that she doesn’t believe the state is making it easy for people to restore their coverage, adding that those who call the state offices often get recorded messages. There are also many who do not have the means to either visit the offices or access a computer to address the problem. The Division of Family and Children Services, which handles such inquiries, is currently short-staffed by hundreds of workers.
The news comes at a particularly precarious time for Georgia, which consistently ranks near the bottom of the country’s statistics when it comes to health care access. A recent study by the private Commonwealth fund, which supports independent health care research, found that the state is 42nd in the country for health care system performance.
At the same time, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has considered implementing Medicaid work requirements in the state, a move that would condition Medicaid eligibility on reported work or volunteer time. Similar policies in Arkansas and Kentucky have resulted in tens of thousands of people losing their health coverage.
Last month, Kemp also signed a near-total abortion ban into law, even as the state grapples with a maternal mortality crisis that has killed 62 black women for every 100,000 births.