In Your Corner: Medicaid Benefits Lost After Missed Call

By Ryan Elijah

June 18, 2010 Updated Jun 12, 2009 at 8:20 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter)--
Karen Winterrowd has been receiving Medicaid benefits for nearly 40 years, she is well aware of the process that comes with those benefits. A short series of questions are given to Medicaid recipients annually to make sure their situation hasn't changed. Last August, Karen was in the hospital for 13 days and found out the penalty for missing Medicaid's yearly check-up.
Karen Winterrowd- "I got a letter saying I was disqualified and had to go through the entire process again".
Karen's phone was also off for 3 days, so she missed the call and letter informing her of her upcoming re-determination, while she can get her benefits back, she has to go through a lengthy process of re-certification. That process has already taken 10 months and left her with letters from collections agencies as she now has over 3-thousand dollars in outstanding medical bills.
"I think it's a little ridiculous, they know I qualify and I'm disabled"
Medicaid is jointly funded by federal and state dollars, but it's managed by the state. In Indiana that's the Family and Social Services Administration. When we contacted the FSSA they immediately responded to us and said the re-determination process is necessary to make sure situations haven't changed and that taxpayer money is going to recipients that deserve it. They also said the process comes at the same time every year and they would have worked with Karen had they known her situation.
"We would have worked with her had we known her situation. It's in our best interest along with our clients to keep from starting the process over again", said Marcus Barlow, FSSA Spokesman.
According to the FSSA, if the person contacts them shortly after missing their review, the benefits usually never stop. We're told her case is now at the final step, a medical review team, if approved, her benefits will be retroactive to last summer. Karen's also frustrated that she's lost her medicare premium and says the entire process has taken a toll on her
"I'm upset all the time over this, all the time"
Karen's is a painful lesson of the high cost of missing an obligation with an assistance program. Hopefully, she'll be approved soon, but then she will still likely face collection calls seeking attorney fees and other charges.

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