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Delay in Florida Medicaid trial raises stakes for hundreds of thousands


Florida's trial on Medicaid eligibility, resulting in 1.8 million people losing coverage, has been indefinitely postponed because the judge overseeing the case had a death in her family. The class-action lawsuit contends the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Children and Families improperly terminated Medicaid coverage for individuals without providing specific reasons or allowing them to appeal the decision before termination.

Advocates say it's tied to a recent report showing Florida has disenrolled about 600,000 children from Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program since COVID-related coverage protections were lifted.

Norin Dollard, senior policy analyst and director with Kids Count, believes the state could do more to prevent coverage loss.

"I mean, that's a significant loss of health care. Kids are a little different than adults because Medicaid is only available to those with low incomes, generally speaking. But kids are much more likely to be eligible for Medicaid. And it's a substantial portion of health insurance for kids, " she said.

State attorneys initially tried to postpone the case, arguing that Monday's start was insufficient time for them to prepare effectively. However, the judge disagreed. Now, both sides will have to wait to hear when a new trial date will be set and whether the state will be forced to reinstate coverage and overhaul how it notifies recipients.

Dollard said there are several legal challenges in play, including one by the state, which sued the Center for Medicaid Services to stop it from enforcing 12 month continuous eligibility in the state's CHIP program.

"The state says that they can terminate coverage for lack of payment, whereas the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services says that they cannot, so we're currently waiting to see what the judge will order from that, " Dollard said.

However, the class-action lawsuit, filed by the National Health Law Program and the Florida Health Justice Project last August, represents five named plaintiffs and a broader class of individuals cut from Medicaid since March 31st, 2023. Ultimately, Dollard believes the state can do more to make the process smoother, and notices can be more specific for recipients to be able to respond to the state's requests.

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