This year, part of Pennsylvania’s money-saving strategy was to catch up on paperwork and remove ineligible people from the state’s Medicaid rolls.
County assistance offices have issued thousands of termination notices. One of the letters went to Philadelphia mom Sheila Marquez who says it was a mistake.
The 37-year-old received a warning in September. The letter said she didn’t show up for a scheduled appointment to review her eligibility. Marquez says she never made an appointment and never got a notice to renew her paperwork.
She says she called her local assistance office, but no luck.
“You can never get through to anybody at any time. Wait, wait, wait on the phone. Ring, ring, ring and no pick up,” Marquez said.
The Northeast Philadelphia resident has a string of health problems that require about $70,000 worth of medical care each year, Because she can’t afford to be without coverage, Marquez contacted Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.
Michael Froehlich, a staff attorney, corroborated her claim.
“The welfare office, as I recall, looked through their computer system, and found that indeed, Ms. Marquez did provide the information that the welfare office was seeking and agreed to continue her Medicaid,” Froehlich said.
Pennsylvania has cut about 130,000 Medicaid enrollees since July. State officials say that number includes residents who’ve gotten new jobs, some who have moved out of state, even a few thousand who have died.
Health-care advocates say they understand the need to reconcile the Medicaid rolls, but Froehlich said caseworkers weren’t given enough time to properly review paperwork.
“The timeframe that the counties were required to clear those backlogs was too tight,” he said.
Froehlich’s office helps low-income people navigate the welfare system; he said he has noticed an increase in paperwork glitches.
Department of Welfare officials say they haven’t seen evidence that any resident was improperly removed from the program.
Taunya English’s story is part of project on health care in the states a partnership between WHYY, NPR and Kaiser Health News.