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Clinics Say L.A. County Fails Ill & Disabled

Thousands of sick and disabled Los Angeles County residents are wrongly denied health care through California Medicaid because the county fails to process their renewals on time, advocates for the poor claim in court.

St. John’s Well Child and Family Center claims in Superior Court that L.A. County, its Department of Public Social Services and Director Sheryl L. Spiller have a backlog of thousands of timely renewals waiting to be processed.

Under state law, the department should renew eligible recipients’ Medi-Cal coverage annually. So long as the recipients turn in their renewal forms, the process should be foolproof and nearly automatic, the Family Center says in the Dec. 21 complaint.

Instead, the county department “knowingly and unlawfully terminates Medi-Cal benefits for thousands of people … by failing to timely process annual Medi-Cal renewal forms in accordance with the law,” the lawsuit states.

Once renewal is denied, people often cannot get the medical treatment or prescription medicines they urgently need, St. John’s and three individual plaintiffs say.

They say the county had a backlog of 12,700 terminated cases in October, though all the beneficiaries had turned in their information on time.

Roughly 100,000 to 150,000s renewals come due every month, according to lead attorney David Kane, with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County. But because of a rush of signups under the Affordable Care Act a year ago, more than 200,000 renewals come due at the end of this month.

If the department can’t process those on time, people will lose healthcare services the next day. “If anybody goes to the doctor on Jan. 1 or 2, they might find their Medi-Cal is cut off,” Kane said.

He asks the court to order the county to stop terminating anybody’s Medi-Cal coverage until the problems are solved.

Kane is assisted by attorneys with Kirkland & Ellis and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

Medi-Cal recipients “are among California’s poorest residents,” according to the 23-page complaint. A single adult with no dependents must earn less than $1,367 per month to qualify.

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