As States Purge Medicaid Rolls, Legal Aid Groups Step Up

By Alison Knezevich

Read more at: As States Purge Medicaid Rolls, Legal Aid Groups Step Up

North Carolina resident Anthony Brooks spent the last few weeks rushing to schedule doctor’s appointments and procedures to treat his chronic heart problems.

The 57-year-old is set to lose his health care coverage through Medicaid at the end of the month, so he is racing to set up surgery to implant a defibrillator his doctors said Brooks needs.

“I can’t afford insurance,” said Brooks, who worked as a traveling home health aide for the elderly until he suffered a heart attack last September. “This is devastating to me.”

Meanwhile, in Florida, Gillian Sapia was shocked when her 5-year-old daughter Penelope’s occupational therapist texted her the day before a scheduled session in May to tell her Penelope was no longer covered by Medicaid.

Penelope, who has been on Medicaid her whole life, has a rare metabolic disorder called classic galactosemia, as well as other health conditions. After the message from her daughter’s therapist, Sapia began a frustrating pursuit to get answers from the state’s Department of Children and Families.

“I spent like a week trying to get somebody, and it was just hours and hours of phone calls,” Sapia said, only to eventually receive conflicting information.

Brooks and Penelope are among the millions of Americans who have recently faced losing their coverage as states have started to review eligibility for the first time since 2020.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government prohibited states from kicking people off Medicaid because of a “continuous coverage requirement” linked to the federal health emergency. But that requirement ended March 31, allowing states to once again start cutting Medicaid rolls.

Both Brooks and Gillian Sapia turned to legal aid organizations for help.

Across the country, nonprofit legal groups are working to raise awareness about the changes, help people appeal coverage terminations and educate beneficiaries about their rights.

Attorneys report that as states undertake the massive review, beneficiaries are experiencing confusion, difficulty getting answers and processing errors.

“This is a very complex process that states have to implement,” said Cassidy Estes-Rogers, an attorney and program director with the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, the North Carolina organization Brooks went to for guidance. As renewal paperwork has started to go out, “at the beginning of the month, we see a huge volume of calls with just absolutely confused people.”

As States Purge Medicaid Rolls, Legal Aid Groups Step Up