ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
80°
Broken Clouds
H 94° L 74°
  • cloudy-day
    80°
    Current Conditions
    Broken Clouds. H 94° L 74°
  • cloudy-day
    90°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 94° L 74°
  • clear-day
    92°
    Evening
    Sunny. H 94° L 74°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

State & Regional Govt & Politics
State to reinstate Medicaid benefits to Georgians who lost them
Close

State to reinstate Medicaid benefits to Georgians who lost them

State to reinstate Medicaid benefits to Georgians who lost them
Photo Credit: Screenshot.
Medicaid is run by the Georgia Department of Community Health. DCH contracts with the Division of Family and Children Services to calculate applicants’ eligibility. PHOTO: Screenshot.

State to reinstate Medicaid benefits to Georgians who lost them

The state Department of Community Health will reinstate the Medicaid benefits of 17,000 poor elderly or disabled people it cut off in a mass disenrollment this month.

State officials still believe they properly notified most of those people it was time to renew, and that those beneficiaries simply did not respond. But out of “an abundance of caution” they will restart the process, said Blake Fulenwider, the agency’s chief health policy officer.

“We take every single one of these cases extremely seriously,” Fulenwider said in an interview with the AJC.

That means that the 17,000 people who were cut off — and another 13,000 that were in line for cutoff for the same reasons — will be sent new renewal notices. Recipients must respond to those renewal notices.

If they don’t, they will be cut off again.

Attorneys for some of the people who lost benefits said their clients never received the notices. They were glad to hear Friday’s news.

“We are grateful that the state has seen this as such a priority that they have worked diligently to assure health care for the most vulnerable Georgians including the seniors and disabled,” said Vicky Kimbrell, a staff attorney with Georgia Legal Services, a nonprofit that represents clients across the state. “We will carefully monitor the benefits on behalf of our clients to assure that they receive these benefits.”

State officials are urging all Medicaid beneficiaries to check their accounts to make sure their correct address is listed for notices, especially those in the group of aged, blind or disabled people on Medicare.

“If we don’t get a response to the notice or if the notice is sent to an incorrect address, we have very little we can do on our end to track people down,” Fulenwider said. “It is absolutely critical that we have an accurate address of record in the system so we can assure that notices are properly delivered to where they need to go.”

Updating a mailing address or email address is up to the person covered, Fulenwider stressed. He suggested recipients do that through their Georgia Gateway computer account, or by going into a state office, or calling the Medicaid 1-877-423-4746 customer service line. The offices that handle that are the Department of Family and Children Services, or DFCS, under contract to DCH.

Kimbrell said that that her clients often have difficulty fixing problems through those methods, starting with the phone line. She hopes that the news of those difficulties will encourage the state to prioritize fixes to its customer service system for benefits.

“We are back to the issue of the ability of people to get through, through Gateway or the phones or their caseworker, to actually get the renewals done,” Kimbrell said. “We hope part of the process is the recognition that the state has to make sure that those pathways are accessible for everyone.”

The group of people affected in this disenrollment were generally on Medicare, but were so poor that they also received Medicaid to fill in the gaps that Medicare doesn’t cover, such as Medicare monthly premiums of more than $100, medications, and co-pays. The loss of Medicaid can cause a domino effect for them, lawyers said, causing them to miss other payments, and lose medical coverage and medical care, for starters.

State officials made the decision after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the mass disenrollment, bringing attention from across the country and questions from federal regulators at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The reinstatement won’t happen immediately. Doing the computer coding to make the patients’ accounts active again will take some time, said Fulenwider and Ed Potts, director of the Georgia Gateway System at the Department of Human Services. 

“Top priority for us to get this done,” said Potts. “And we want to get it done right.”

The Gateway computer system started the problem, when it accidentally created a backlog of 30,000 cases for cancellation last year. Every month, thousands of people come on and off Medicaid. The 30,000 people should have been part of that regular flow, Potts said, after they didn’t respond to renewal notices. The computer should have generated an alert for a caseworker to review each case and end the account.

Instead, a glitch that started in October put such accounts in limbo. When the vendor for Gateway, Deloitte Consulting, fixed the mistake in January, the backlog was too big for caseworkers to review. DCH decided to terminate them.

Deloitte, DHS and DCH say they are “extremely confident” that notices were sent to all but 68 of those 30,000 people before they were scheduled for the mass disenrollment.

When Medicaid accounts are reinstated, all benefits will be restored back to June 1, they said.

“We feel that we are absolutely correct in the actions that were taken,” Fulenwider said. “But we do recognize that it could have caught some folks by surprise. And we want to take the steps that we can to help them revalidate and take care of benefits.”

READ THE ORIGINAL AJC STORY: EXCLUSIVE-Georgia is cutting off Medicaid for 17,000 patients

WHAT TO DO

DFCS and DCH will send renewal notices to 30,000 people who were slated for cutoff. If they don’t respond, they will lose their benefits. (Many of them already lost their benefits, but those are being reinstated temporarily, so the renewal process can generate again.)

Check your account

If you’re on Medicaid, just to be safe, check your account. Make sure you have the correct mailing address and/or email address on file so they can reach you. Look through your notices to make sure you don’t have any warning notices sitting there, whether or not you think you should have them.

If you see something amiss, or you just want to check, contact or go to DFCS.

If you get a renewal notice

Immediately follow the instructions and renew, through your Gateway account or the other options listed. There is a deadline for this and you need to meet the deadline.

State offices

DFCS says it’s working hard to get the mass disenrollment reversed. At that time, all 17,000 disenrolled people will have benefits reinstated dating back to June 1. It’s going to take a few days at least, though, for DFCS’ computer vendor to get that work done.

After that, if you believe you are still cut off from Medicaid in error, the state Department of Community Health says you have 10 days to appeal the decision. After that, the DCH says you can apply within 90 days for renewal at the local office that serves your county — that will be a Department of Family and Children Services office, not a DCH office.

The main customer service number for Medicaid is 1-877-423-4746. County offices have their own phone numbers, listed at https://dfcs.georgia.gov/locations.

Outside legal help

DCH and DFCS tell people in notices that if they believe they are wronged, they can call specific legal offices. The offices don’t take every case. But they do take cases where it looks like the state has done something wrong and the lawyers can help fix it and make a difference.

One group of lawyers helps people in parts of metro Atlanta, and the other group helps people in the rest of the state.

Atlanta Legal Aid

Atlanta Legal Aid helps people in these counties:

Cobb County: 770-528-2565

DeKalb County: 404-377-0701

Fulton County: 404-524-5811

Gwinnett County: 678-407-6469

South Fulton and Clayton counties: 404-669-0233

Georgia Legal Services Program

Georgia Legal Services helps people in all the other counties.

1-800-498-9469

OUR REPORTING

On June 6 the AJC first reported that the state cut off Medicaid for 17,000 poor elderly or disabled Georgians, and that some were saying it came without notice. The AJC later reported an additional 13,000 were in line for cutoff next, though the state was reconsidering. State officials say they verified that all but 68 received notice.

On June 14, the AJC reported bureaucratic glitches the patients were running into.

On June 21, following public interest and concern from federal regulators, the state said it would reinstate Medicaid for all 30,000 slated for cutoff, and go back through the renewal process with them.

Read More

News

  • Authorities in Michigan are searching for a 2-year-old girl who reportedly vanished from an Oscoda County campsite Monday morning. >> Read more trending news According to the Oscoda County Sheriff's Office, family members of Gabriella Vitale, 2, of the Monroe area, 'lost track' of the girl as they were getting ready to leave the campsite near state Highway 33 and Reber Road. They reported her missing about 8:15 a.m., authorities said. By late Monday, search crews, including deputies, state troopers, police dogs, a police helicopter and Michigan Department of Natural Resources officers, had not found the child, authorities said. Gabriella was wearing a pink zip-up coat, a gray shirt, pink bottoms and tennis shoes when she disappeared, the Sheriff's Office said. Authorities later found the coat 'several hundred yards southeast of where she went missing,' Michigan State Police said. Gabriella 'may have autism,' WWTV reported. If you have any information about Gabriella's whereabouts, call 989-826-3214. Read more here or here.
  • A Tennessee man was indicted on first-degree murder charges after his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son was taken to the hospital and later died. >> Read more news stories Alan Johnson, 41, of Memphis, was taking care of the child while his mother was at work on Oct. 10, 2018, according to officials. He told investigators he was throwing the 2-year-old up in the air and catching him, but the boy slipped on the last throw, authorities said. According to investigators, Johnson said he swung the child – identified as Dylan Meeks – to “keep him from hitting the ground.” He said he saw the boy’s neck go back and noticed he was not responding, so he called police, authorities said. The child died two days later. The staff at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital told police that the injuries, which included a skull fracture, brain swelling, internal injuries and rib fractures, were not consistent with Johnson's story. The medical examiner found new and healing fractures of the child's ribs and also lacerations of several organs.  Johnson was later charged with murder. He was indicted Monday on charges of first-degree murder in the perpetration of aggravated child abuse and neglect. Johnson is being held without bond in the Shelby County Jail.
  • Police have apprehended a Pennsylvania man wanted on charges related to the death of his girlfriend's infant daughter, authorities said.  >> Read more trending news Pennsylvania State Police confirmed that Derrick Bass, 29, was arrested in Ohio on Monday, two days after the 11-month-old was found dead in a Pack ‘n Play at an apartment complex in East Huntingdon Township, Pennsylvania. He has been charged with homicide. The baby’s mother told police that Bass was supposed to be watching her daughter and his two children. He also was supposed to pick her up from work, but never showed up, she told police. When the girl’s mother got home, she noticed her daughter and various electronic items were missing, according to a complaint. She called police shortly after 11 p.m. Police responded to the apartment shortly after 12:30 a.m. after the mother reported finding her daughter unresponsive in the Pack ‘n Play, the complaint said. She did not see her until that time because the baby was covered in blankets, according to the complaint. Family identified the girl as 11-month-old Niomie Miller. An autopsy was conducted Sunday morning, and the preliminary cause of death was determined to be drowning, authorities said.
  • An electric company worker in eastern Kentucky took every precaution recently as he prepared to head out to a job untangling a tree from a power line, but little did he know there was no way to prepare for what was about to happen to him.  >> Read more trending news  Chris Prater told WYMT-TV that he sprayed himself down with insect repellent and joined his crew for the task ahead. After finishing the job, he said his eye bothered him. “I noticed I just started having irritation in my eye,” Prater said. He said he flushed his eye out several times and had a co-worker take a look, yet a spot he noticed didn’t move, WYMT reported. Prater was hesitant to go to a doctor, but finally made an appointment with an optometrist. 'When the doctor finally comes in, he was looking at it. He said, 'I know what's in your eye.'' Prater said he was stunned when the doctor explained what he had found. “He said, ‘It's a tick.’ That's when I got scared a little bit,” Prater told the news station. “I leaned around and looked at him and I asked him if he was joking and he said, ‘No, you have a deer tick or some type of tick.’ It was very little.” The doctor numbed Prater’s eye and used a pair of tweezers to extract the tick. “Once he grabbed ahold of it and pulled it off, the tick made a, like, a little popping sound when it came off of my eye,” Prater said. Luckily there was no lasting damage to his eye, but Prater wanted to warn others about the importance of using insect repellent, even though he knows that wouldn’t have helped his eye.
  • New York authorities are investigating the death of a 3-year-old boy who fell into a grease trap Monday morning in Rochester and died. >> Read more trending news  The tragedy happened behind a Tim Hortons restaurant around 11 a.m., according to WROC-TV. A witness found the boy, pulled him out of the pit and administered CPR but the boy died a short time later at a local hospital. “It’s a horrible, tragic accident,” police investigator Frank Camp told WROC.  There was no fencing around the trap and it was “flush with the ground,” Camp said.  The trap was covered with a green plastic lid and it blended in with the surrounding grass, Camp told CNN. “The lid was on there. It looks like the child ran across it and it popped open and he fell into the trap,” Camp said. The pit is 2.5-feet in diameter, and the city was called in to pour concrete around the trap and replace the plastic lid with a metal one. Right Now: A crew is working to secure a grease trap at Tim Hortons on University Avenue. This is following a tragic accident earlier today. A 3-year-old boy has died after falling into this grease trap. Police attempts were made to save him but were unsuccessful. @SPECNewsROC pic.twitter.com/fubViueURN — Natasha Acrie (@NatashaAcrieTV) July 15, 2019 “We have a horrifying episode here that happened today,” Camp said, according to CNN. “We're asked all the time, ‘What's the worst thing you encounter as a police officer?’ and this is No. 1.” It’s unclear how the child, who was not publicly identified, wandered behind the restaurant. The medical examiner will issue an official cause of death in the next few weeks “We have a horrifying episode here that happened today,” Camp said, according to CNN. “We're asked all the time, ‘What's the worst thing you encounter as a police officer?’ and this is No. 1.” It’s unclear how the child, who was not publicly identified, wandered behind the restaurant. The medical examiner will issue an official cause of death in the next few weeks.
  • A biologist diving off the English coast over the weekend had a stunning and rare encounter with a jellyfish so large, it was easily the size of a grown man. >> Read more trending news  Researcher and broadcaster Lizzie Daly described the encounter as “breathtaking,” according to CNN. “What an unforgettable experience,” said Daly, who was diving as part of her Wild Ocean Week campaign to raise awareness and money for the United Kingdom’s Marine Conservation Society. “I know barrel jellyfish get really big in size but I have never seen anything like it before!” she said.She was diving off the coast of Falmouth, where she and her diving partner spotted the massive jellyfish. “It really humbles you to be alongside an animal that size,” Daly told Vice News. “It’s an experience we’ll never forget.”  Barrel jellyfish inhabit the British seas and are the largest species of jellyfish in U.K. waters, CNN reported. They can grow larger than three feet and weigh more than 55 pounds.