ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

clear-night
79°
Very Hot
H 95° L 71°
  • clear-night
    79°
    Current Conditions
    Very Hot. H 95° L 71°
  • very-hot
    95°
    Today
    Very Hot. H 95° L 71°
  • very-hot
    96°
    Tomorrow
    Very Hot. H 96° L 71°
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

  • A North Carolina man charged in the death of his 2-month-old child faced a judge in Burke County on Monday.  >> Read more trending news  Maurice Dashawn Springs, 23, is charged with second-degree murder.  Officials said deputies were called to Carolina Health Care System – Blue Ridge on Sept. 4 after an unresponsive 2-month-old boy was taken to the hospital by his parents.  The baby was transferred to Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, but he died on Sept. 9.  The Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division and Burke County's Department of Social Services started an investigation after reports from emergency room staff and at Levine's.  According to a search warrant, deputies believe the child died of shaken baby syndrome. “No visible signs of trauma to the head or anywhere on the child. That’s the next logical place you go – shaken baby,” Sheriff Steve Whisenant said. Officials said CT scans showed multiple subdural hematomas consistent with a traumatic brain injury. Springs’ family said he loved the baby with all his heart, and they are standing by him. The child’s mother was in court but too distraught to talk afterward. “As a parent and a grandparent, any time there is a young child involved all of us struggle with thinking about what a child went through,” Whisenant said. WSOC-TV learned that deputies interviewed Springs for hours. They are not revealing what he said during that interview prior to his arrest. 
  • Two Florida residents are facing several charges in Nassau County following an arrest on Friday. >> Read more trending news  Deputies with the Nassau County Sheriff's Office were in the area of South 14th Street and Sadler Road at 11:38 p.m., when they saw a man and a woman riding bicycles: one with no lights on the bicycle and the other bicycle with no lights on the rear, according to the report. The deputy said they began riding in the middle of the road and were almost hit by another vehicle due to their lack of lights.  The Sheriff's Office said the deputy pulled over Aaron Thomas, 31, and Megan Mondanaro, 35, at 870 Sadler Road and stated there was a strong odor of an alcoholic drink emitting from both of them. Thomas told the deputy that they had come from Hammer Head Bar and had beer. According to the arrest report, the pair both had bloodshot, watery eyes, and their speech was slurred. The deputy performed a field sobriety test on Thomas until he refused to complete it. Deputies said he did poorly on the portion of the test he did perform. The report said Mondanaro did not speak to the deputy after being asked to take the sobriety test. The report said the two were arrested and placed in the back of the patrol car. While the deputy was outside the patrol car, the pair took off their clothes and began to have sex, according to the arrest report.  NCSO said Thomas was removed from the car while naked by the deputy. Thomas was able to knock the deputy down to the ground during the process and began to run through the parking lot, the report stated. Thomas ran past several cars at a traffic light and then in front of a CVS store and in the parking lot of other stores. Deputies said they eventually caught up with him at the Cold Stone Creamery ice cream shop and arrested him. Thomas was taken to the Nassau County Detention Facility after he was medically cleared and faces charges of exposing sex organs, DUI, a threat against a public official, and an unnatural and lascivious act.  The arrest report stated during a breath test, he blew a .145 on the first breath and a .146 on the second. The breath test was taken three hours and 21 minutes after the arrest. Mondanaro became violent and started kicking one of the deputies several times after Thomas was initially removed from the patrol car. She is facing charges of exposing sex organs, DUI, resisting with violence/simple assault, and an unnatural and lascivious act.
  • General Mills is pulling some bags of flour from store shelves over E. coli concerns, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. >> Read more trending news  The company announced it was voluntarily recalling five-pound bags of Gold Medal Unbleached All Purpose Flour. The recall only affects bags with a use by date of Sept. 6, 2020. According to officials with General Mills, the flour could potentially contain E. coli. The bacteria was discovered during sampling of the product. FDA officials said there have not been any reports of confirmed illnesses connected to the recall. 
  • Three teens in masks were shot and killed by a homeowner Monday morning in Rockdale County, Georgia, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  Investigators determined that the juveniles, one age 15 and two age 16, were involved in an exchange of gunfire with the White Oak Court homeowner shortly after 4 a.m., the Rockdale County Sheriff’s office spokesman, Deputy Lee Thomas said, in a statement emailed Monday afternoon. All three juveniles were from Conyers, Thomas said. WSB-TV said two of them were brothers. Deputies were called to the single-story home to investigate a report of shots fired. They found three “young men” lying on the ground outside, Sheriff Eric Levett said at the scene.  “Upon our arrival, the deceased was at the edge of a driveway and partially in the roadway,” he said. “The other young man was a little bit down the street, where it appears he was running.” Deputies administered first aid to him and another teen. Both later died after being taken to a hospital, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The juveniles allegedly approached the residence and attempted to rob three people in the front yard, Thomas said. One of the attempted robbery suspects brandished a gun and fired at the residents before the homeowner returned fire, according to the statement. The robbery victims were not injured in the shooting. No charges have been filed. “They did discover masks on the young men,” the sheriff said. “That rose our suspicions.” Levett said the homeowner, who has not been identified, is in his late 40s to early 50s. WSB-TV reported he is a truck driver. Carlos Watson, who lives next door, said more than 10 emergency vehicles responded quickly to his otherwise quiet cul-de-sac after the shooting.  He said he thought he was dreaming when he first heard a series of about five gunshots. The second round got him out of bed.  “I heard somebody yell for help. Then I heard it again, and that’s when I came outside,” Watson said. “There was one gentleman laid out and our neighbor, Mr. Jenkins, was helping him out.” Brian Jenkins, a candidate for Rockdale County Commission chair, said he waited until deputies arrived before he went to check on the teen lying in his yard, screaming for help. The teen appeared to have been shot near his shoulder and was wearing a mask around his neck, Jenkins said.  “I told him to just calm down and relax,” he said. “It will be OK. Just stop moving.”  Watson has lived in the neighborhood off Flat Shoals Road for about a year and said random crimes are not common.  Investigators are still trying to determine who owned two different types of guns recovered from the scene.  
  • Around 100 SeaWorld employees were told Monday they're out of a job. >> Read more trending news  The employees worked for a call center in Orlando, that handles customer service for all of SeaWorld's 12 parks across the country. Some of the laid-off workers said they're really upset because their jobs are now going to people in other counties. A few of the laid-off employees said they were recently sent to Central America to train people, but said they had no idea they were training those workers to replace them in their own jobs. Empty parking spots in an otherwise full lot paint a picture of what happened behind closed doors at SeaWorld's corporate call center in Orlando. 'I got a call from human resources and they said that, effectively immediately, I no longer had a position there,' one former employee said. The employees said that, without warning, about 100 people were laid off. 'Everything from monthly payment plans, from annual passes to selling new annual passes, park tickets, setting up dining reservations, animal encounters, tours,' the former employee said, describing the workers' jobs. SeaWorld released a statement, saying 'it undertook a careful review of its operations and made a business decision to restructure its call center operations.” The statement also reads, “This move will allow us to better and more efficiently scale our call center to meet customer demand, especially during peak months. Due to this change, approximately 100 employee positions at the Orlando call center have been eliminated and operations have been shifted to a third-party vendor, effective immediately.” One former worker, who is a graduate student, said the company agreed to pay workers for the next 60 days but she's not sure how she'll be able to afford school now. 'People didn't really have a chance to prepare and, for me, that just doesn't sit right,' she said. 'That's a lot of money and a lot more debt that I’m not prepared to take on.' SeaWorld officials said the company recognizes the layoffs are not easy and it plans to offer severance benefits and outplacement assistance to help former employees with the transition. Former employees said the new call centers are in Jamaica and Guatemala.
  • Kathy Gadd is devastated over the death of her daughter, 39-year-old Jennifer Kalicki, who was found dead Sunday morning in her apartment in Tewksbury, Massachusetts.  >> Read more trending news  'She was the most wonderful daughter a mother could ask for and I can't believe I'll never see her again,' Gadd said in an interview Monday.  Jennifer's boyfriend, Eric Griffin, has been arrested and charged with domestic assault and battery. 'He murdered her. He murdered her,' Gadd said. 'There's no two ways about it. I want him to get the most they can give him.' Authorities said that, when they found Jennifer Kalicki after 8 a.m. Sunday, she was already dead. They could see trauma on her face, neck and extremities. On Saturday morning, 24 hours before Kalicki was found, authorities said, she sent disturbing texts to Eric Griffin's sister. 'He's ripped the door open. Choked me, slammed me to the ground,' the text messages read. 'Please help me. He's losing it...I just need help. I'm tired of him making me the victim.' 'During those text messages, the victim was begging the defendant's sister for help,' prosecutor Suzanne Wiseman said in court. 'She also indicated in those text messages that the defendant slammed her on the ground and the defendant had strangled her.' Griffin's sister never called the police. At the time of Kalicki's death, Griffin had just gotten out of the Billerica House of Correction, where he was held on a drug charge.  Griffin was released from jail on Wednesday. The only reason he got out is because Kalicki went to Lowell District Court and paid his $250 bail. Half a week later, Kalicki was dead- - at the hands of the man she helped get out of jail, investigators said. 'I just hate him. I hate him so much,' Gadd said. 'And he's going to try and say he's sorry. That's the type of person he is. He's not sorry. He's just sorry he got caught.' A Lowell District Court Judge has revoked Griffin's bail. Griffin is due back in court Friday for a dangerousness hearing.