Systematic problems in the District’s administration of Medicaid and Food Stamps are leading to long delays in getting benefits for many DC residents, according to a new report by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia.
The report, Closing the Gap, found that many find their benefits wrongly denied, terminated, or delayed unnecessarily.”¯ The problems have gotten worse since health reform, in part because more people are seeking assistance.”¯
“DC’s generous health care benefits don’t mean much if residents can’t get access to services,” said Wes Rivers, a co-author. “For families living on”¯the financial edge, even short delays in getting health care or food stamps can be devastating.”
The report highlights several stories, including Ms. Lewis, [name changed for anonymity] a mother of two who applied for Medicaid for her children in February 2014:
After having problems with the website, Ms. Lewis sent documents by email and fax several times, but received no response after several weeks. During that time, her son was injured and required emergency medical attention. Ms. Lewis was told she would be billed for treatment because she had no Medicaid coverage. Ms. Lewis and her son left the emergency room without being treated. Later, it was learned that Ms. Lewis’ Medicaid application had been denied without notifying her. None of Ms. Lewis’s many faxes or emails had been successfully processed. Now, Ms. Lewis must reapply all over again, and her children remain uninsured. “¯
The report acknowledges that implementing health reform is highly complex, and that DC agencies have worked hard to put reforms in place. The report makes several recommendations for improving staffing, training, and application processes to ease problems.
DCFPI and Legal Aid have identified affected residents willing to share their experiences. Contact Policy Analyst for comment or more information at 202-325-8821 or firstname.lastname@example.org