250,000 Floridians are kicked out of Medicaid as DeSantis rakes in cash from big donors

“One of these individuals is a seven-year-old boy in remission from leukemia who is now unable to access follow-up and potentially life-saving treatments,” local advocacy groups said.

Hundreds of thousands of poor Floridians have been forced out of Medicaid in recent weeks as their Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, travels the country for his 2024 presidential bid and raises campaign money from big donors.

Florida is one of more than a dozen states that have begun to undo pandemic-era rules that prohibit states from taking people off Medicaid during the public health emergency. Late last year, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement to end so-called continuous coverage requirements, opening the door for a massive purge of the life-saving health care program.

A dozen states have released preliminary data on the number of people taking off Medicaid as they restart eligibility checks, a cumbersome process many people ultimately fail to navigate.

So far, the numbers are alarming: More than 600,000 people in the US have been stripped of Medicaid coverage since April, according to a KFF Health Newsanalysis of available data, and “the vast majority were removed from state rolls for failure to complete paperwork” rather than confirm ineligibility.

Nearly 250,000 people who have been kicked out of Medicaid live in Florida, whose governor is a longtime opponent of public health programs. As HuffPost‘s Jonathan Cohn wrote Sunday, DeSantis “has refused to support ACA’s Medicaid expansion to the state, which is the main reason more than 12% of Floridians are without health insurance.”

“That’s the fourth highest rate in the country,” Cohn said.

But DeSantis, who has said he wants to “make America Florida,” seems indifferent to the staggering number of people losing Medicaid in his state while on the campaign trail. The governor relied heavily on large taxpayers to raise more than $8 million during the first 24 hours of his presidential bid.

Before formally launching his 2024 campaign, DeSantis traveled the country on private planes with the money of wealthy and sometimes secretive donors, and is currently facing a lawsuit from the Federal Election Commission for illegally transferring more than $80 million from a state committee to a super PAC. supporting his candidacy for the White House.

“Families with children have been wrongfully terminated and parents are having trouble contacting the DCF call center for help with this process.”

Late last month, the DeSantis administration insisted that it “has a robust outreach campaign” aimed at making sure people are aware of the hurdles they must go through to maintain their Medicaid coverage, such as income verification.

In Florida, a four-person household must earn less than $39,900 in annual income to qualify for Medicaid.

Early data from the state indicates that 44% of those who lost coverage within weeks were terminated for procedural reasons, such as failing to turn in paperwork on time.

The numbers have raised alarm among local advocates, who urged DeSantis late last month to pause the Medicaid redetermination process after hearing reports of people losing coverage without receiving any notice from the Department of Children and Families (DCF). ) in Florida with chronic understaffing.

“One of these individuals is a seven-year-old boy in remission from leukemia who is now unable to access follow-up and potentially lifesaving treatments,” wrote a coalition of groups including the Florida Policy Institute and the Florida Health Justice Project. to DeSantis. “Families with children have been mistakenly terminated, and parents are having trouble contacting the DCF call center for help with this process. Also, unclear notices and a lack of information on how to appeal contribute to further confusion.”

Quoting Miriam Harmatz, director of advocacy and founder of the Florida Health Justice Project, KFF Health Newsreported last week that “some cancellation notices in Florida are vague and could violate due process rules.”

“The letters you’ve seen say ‘your Medicaid for this period is ending’ rather than providing a specific reason for disenrollment, such as having too high an income or incomplete paperwork,” the outlet noted. “If a person requests a hearing before their termination takes effect, they may remain covered during the appeal process. Even after disenrolling, many still have a 90-day window to reinstate coverage.”

The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that nationwide, about 15.5 million people are likely to lose Medicaid coverage over the next year and a half, including 5 million children, as states resume controls. of eligibility necessary by a system that does not guarantee medical care for all as a right.

“Many people don’t realize they’ve been disenrolled from Medicaid until they show up at the pharmacy to get a prescription refilled or have a doctor’s appointment scheduled,” Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at Kaiser Family Foundation, saidthe washington post last week.

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