JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Three Florida residents filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, alleging that state agencies aren't adequately notifying low-income and disabled people that their public health insurance is ending.
The class-action lawsuit was filed in Jacksonville federal court by the Florida Health Justice Project and the National Health Law Program on behalf of the three Floridians, according to court records. The defendants are the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Department of Children and Families Deputy Chief of Staff Mallory McManus said in an email that the agency's letters to recipients are legally sufficient. McManus added that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approved DCF's redetermination plan based on the federal agency's regulations.
“There are multiple steps in the eligibility determination process and the final letter is just one of multiple communications from the Department,” McManus said.
More than 182,000 Floridians have been issued termination notices since April, when a coronavirus policy that banned states from dropping people from Medicaid ended, while hundreds of thousands more are expected to lose coverage over the next year, the residents say in the lawsuit.
Many of the low-income people who are losing coverage have no idea whether the state is making the right decision or how to challenge their loss of coverage, they argue. The residents are asking for an end to the current notification process and for coverage to be reinstated to people who previously received the faulty termination notices.
The state agencies have known since 2018 that the notices were confusing but have continued to use them, leaving many without coverage for critical care, prescriptions, vaccinations and postpartum care, Sarah Grusin, an attorney for the National Health Law Program, said in a statement.
“Fundamental due process requires the State to ensure that people receive adequate, meaningful notice of the State’s decision and the opportunity to challenge it before coverage is terminated,” Grusin said. "This is not happening.”
The National Health Law Program said this is the first lawsuit amid the nationwide Medicaid unwinding, with nearly 4 million people across the U.S. being cut from Medicaid since this spring.
Amanda Avery, another attorney for the National Health Law Program, said in a statement that the scope of Florida's terminations is particularly egregious but that similar patterns are seen in many other states.
“For months, advocates have been warning state and federal agencies that the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency and the Medicaid unwinding process would lead to massive coverage losses for people who are still eligible for Medicaid," Aver said. “We are seeing that play out in real time.”