Sep 19, 2023 - News

Advocacy groups file civil rights complaint against Florida over Medicaid terminations

Illustration of the state of Florida covered in bandages.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

UnidosUS, a Hispanic civil rights advocacy organization, and a dozen other groups filed a civil rights complaint against Florida, alleging the state's Medicaid redetermination process discriminates against minorities.

Why it matters: Hundreds of thousands of Floridians lost Medicaid since the state began dropping some enrollees in May after the end of a pandemic-era policy that protected coverage.

  • Half of those who were dropped are still eligible but were removed because of "procedural reasons," according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Details: The complaint, which is supported by the Florida Health Justice Project and the Florida Policy Institute, outlined several of the state's actions that impede eligible Latino, Black and immigrant residents from re-enrolling.

  • The state's Medicaid website is not accessible on smartphones, and according to the Pew Research Center, people of color are less likely than their white counterparts to own a desktop or laptop computer.

Plus: The complaint also cited a report from UnidosUS that found Spanish-speaking Floridians encountered hours of delays when reapplying for coverage via the state's call centers.

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights said Medicaid call centers are particularly important to people of color, who are "less likely to have broadband and internet access."

Of note: Three Floridians, including two children, filed a lawsuit in August alleging the state illegally cut their Medicaid coverage by not providing adequate information about expiring coverage.

  • They allege the state's notices don't fully explain whether a person is still eligible.

What they're saying: "Florida could easily solve these problems. The state has a $20 billion budget surplus," the groups behind the complaint wrote. "A small fraction of the remainder would suffice to retain a contractor who can make the Medicaid website accessible to smartphones; to hire enough call center staff."

  • "These problems' persistence speaks to the state's priorities."

The other side: The Florida Department of Children and Families, which determines Medicaid eligibility, did not respond to Axios' request for comment.


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