ORLANDO, Fla. – One million Florida residents face the possibility of being dropped from Medicaid coverage after a COVID-era federal policy expired at the end of last month.
Medicaid is federally subsidized health insurance designed for low-income individuals and families.
Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, medical coverage was extended for those individuals and families throughout the pandemic emergency even if they no longer officially qualified for coverage.
That policy expired on March 31, and the Florida Department of Children and Families, which manages Medicaid coverage for Florida residents, is beginning the process of determining who is eligible to stay on and who is not.
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Erin, who does not want to use her last name, said she received an email from DCF in March.
“It was an email saying that my Medicaid is due to expire on April 30, 2023,” she said.
Erin’s 7-year-old son, Landon, spent the years during the pandemic battling leukemia.
She chronicled her son’s journey on Instagram, dubbing her son Landon The Conqueror.
“I just want to make sure I have Medicaid for my son,” Erin told News 6. “I was like, ‘How am I going to cover my son that has cancer? The rest of his treatment? His OT (occupational therapy) and PT (physical therapy) services?’”
Erin said communication about what’s been dubbed “Medicaid Unwinding” has been confusing.
She said her online dashboard showed her Medicaid eligibility would expire in March 2024.
News 6 contacted DCF and confirmed her family will stay covered with Medicaid until next year.
“I just hate it for other families that have the same situation going on with them,” she said. “Some may have just started treatment or have a child that has a lifelong threatening illness, and they have to worry about how they’re going to pay for their treatment or how they’re going to get coverage.”
Erin’s family is fundraising for a family trip to Disney World And Give Kids the World Village. A link to donate can be found here.
Christina Russo Walters works with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, and she is working with other community organizations to make sure Medicaid clients know they have options besides losing coverage completely.
“If I got that letter, I would be calling everyone and their mother to figure out what I’m going to do next,” said Walters, of Erin’s letter.
She estimated as many as one million Florida residents could be dropped from Medicaid because they are no longer eligible.
“There’s actually some concern that the first time folks will find out they no longer have Medicaid benefits is when they go to receive services,” she said. “When they show up at the pharmacy to go get their asthma inhaler, they might find out that there’s no longer benefits coverage.”
Walters said Medicaid recipients in Florida should have received a notice indicating they need to reverify their eligibility.
Coverage terminations will begin on April 30, she said, as this unwinding happens.
She said families with children under 18 who are suffering from chronic illness will be screened for eligibility last, giving them time for more treatment.
“Health coverage is something that makes a huge difference to folks,” she said. “Having that coverage and being able to access health care not only allows you to be healthier, but it allows you to be a more productive member of society. You can’t go to work if you’re constantly ill, right?”
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida is hosting a meetup for Medicaid recipients to learn about other options for health insurance coverage.
The event will take place April 24 at Hart Memorial Library in Kissimmee from 3 to 7 p.m.
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