Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri's Declining Medicaid Caseload Stands out in National Report

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri's Declining Medicaid Caseload Stands out in National Report

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * Missouri is seeing a bigger decline in its Medicaid rolls than nearly any other state, a ranking that the administration of Gov. Jay Nixon attributes to an improving economy and critics blame on application snafus.

A new federal report compares Medicaid enrollment in March to the average for the three-month period of July through September 2013. Missouri's caseload declined 3.9 percent, a drop second only to Wyoming, which declined by 5.6 percent.

The Missouri Department of Social Services, which oversees Medicaid, attributed the decline to more people finding jobs.

"As the economy has improved, fewer Missourians are relying on assistance programs for support," an agency spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

The department has resolved a backlog that was delaying eligibility determinations, the spokeswoman said.

"The number of applications pending has returned to a normal volume, which is typically around 20,000," the statement said.

Critics contend the state is making it harder for people to enroll or renew their coverage.

Nixon reorganized the department's Family Support Division last year. The number of caseworkers at walk-in centers has been reduced and a new software system is being phased in for applications, which now are handled at remote processing centers.

Joel Ferber, an attorney at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, ticked off these reasons for the enrollment decline:

"It's the reorganization, it's the staffing issues, it's the new computer systems, it's the slow pace, it's the delays of getting through the backlog," he said.

Rep. Jeanne Kirkton, D-Webster Groves, agreed. She said she heard frequent complaints from constituents.

"There are still some pretty major problems with people getting access in a timely manner," she said. "They can't talk to anybody" who can answer their questions and lost paperwork results in benefits being denied, she said. …

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