More than 91,000 Medi-Cal recipients in Los Angeles County will be sent letters this week telling them that their state-supported healthcare coverage will end on Nov. 30. A judge this week refused to block the notices, even though health advocates argued that the letters lack important details that would help recipients renew their plans.
"I think it's going to be a big shock when people get notices Thursday or Friday telling them they've been terminated," said Cori Racela, an attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services. Her group was one of several that had asked the Alameda County Superior Court to temporarily shut down the state process on Tuesday, pending further review. But a judge declined to issue a restraining order.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post said that new applications for Medi-Cal would add to the program's large enrollment backlog. New applications might or might not become part of the backlog.
The groups had filed suit on Monday, seeking to block the renewals -- a required process for Medi-Cal beneficiaries who were enrolled in the program before the Obamacare healthcare reform -- on the grounds that packets mailed earlier in the year did not clearly explain what eligibility information applicants were supposed to provide.
A hearing on that suit is scheduled for Dec. 9. In the meantime, counties may notify Medi-Cal beneficiaries who have not yet provided the requested eligibility information that their coverage will end.
The redetermination process does not affect millions of new Medi-Cal members statewide who enrolled as part of the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion. And cutoff would not be final: Beneficiaries who receive discontinuation notices will have 90 days to provide needed information to the state and be reinstated, said Anthony Cava, a spokesman for the California Department of Health Care Services, which oversees Medi-Cal enrollment.
But according to the lawsuit filed by the legal groups Monday, the state-sanctioned discontinuation notices do not explain clearly that recipients have 90 days to act. Additionally, the advocates complained, the state has not translated communications from English into Spanish, Chinese or eight other "threshold" languages spoken by significant numbers of Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
"We don't believe it's OK to proceed with terminations until every beneficiary has the information about how to turn their benefits back on," Racela said.
Cava noted that counties had translated the 2014 renewal forms into Spanish, and that flyers accompanying those forms provided phone numbers for assistance in the threshold languages.
Medi-Cal members who do not update their income information within 90 days will have to reapply for Medi-Cal -- potentially adding to a longstanding enrollment backlog for the program caused by ongoing computer woes.
The state's enrollment backlog -- once as large as 900,000 -- was 133,927 as of Nov. 14, Cava said. He declined to comment on the pending renewals lawsuit.