On Friday, the Department of Public Welfare will send out around one hundred thousand letters to Medicaid recipients in Pennsylvania who lost their benefits in the past year telling them they might want to consider reapplying. They might even get some of their debts covered.
In 2011, the state decided to ameliorate a several years-old welfare eligibility review backlog and rid the system of fraud and waste. In the process, thousands of Pennsylvanians were removed from the welfare rolls because either they didn’t turn in their eligibility papers or because they were not processed in time by overworked Department of Public Welfare caseworkers. They then had to reapply for their benefits.
Those who have not had their benefits reinstated will receive simple paperwork that they can fill out and return within 30 days. If they are eligible, their medical assistance will be reinstated in an expedited process.
“The review process and the backlog was something we certainly had to work through last year and really I’m looking at this as the send phase of the backlog review. And we’re going back and making sure that those people that were removed from the benefit have another opportunity to reapply,” said Anne Bale, spokesperson for The Department of Public Welfare.
Medicaid, a state-federal program for the poor and disabled, provides medical services for the poor and disabled. There are more than two million people in Pennsylvania enrolled in the program.
Richard Weishaupt, a senior attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia has spent the last year working with The Department of Public Welfare to set up this process. He said some recipients might get reimbursed for debts accrued in the time they were off the state rolls. “If they’ve had out of pocket expenses or owe creditors for medical expenses that they had when they were without insurance they can also submit those to get payment,” he said.
The six month eligibility review process for recipients will remain in place but caseworkers will be encouraged to use electronic databases that share information with other governmental agencies, such as The Social Security Administration, to make the review process move more smoothly.
“I think this agreement stands for the proposition that nobody wants to see those folks go without the medical care that they desperately need,” said Weishaupt.