Preventing Thousands Of Vulnerable Families From Losing Medical Benefits
Civil Rights Group Urges State To Prevent Thousands Of Vulnerable Families From Losing Medical Benefits
MassHealth “Redetermination” Process Particularly Threatens Non-English Speakers And Those With Unstable Housing
Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) issued a letter to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requesting immediate action to protect vulnerable families and children from losing their MassHealth benefits in the upcoming “redetermination” process. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the State paused MassHealth terminations, in recognition of the critical need for healthcare coverage. Starting next month, however, the State plans to resume the unenrollment of MassHealth members who do not submit required paperwork – even though most remain still eligible for the program.
The demand letter focuses on the particular barriers that non-English speakers and those without stable housing will face in the redetermination process. MassHealth has stated that only certain outreach materials will be translated into other languages, but much more needs to be done to ensure that non-English speakers are not unfairly terminated from benefits. MassHealth must rectify these issues immediately by ensuring that the renewal notices are fully translatedinto different languages relevant to diverse communities and sent to enrollees in their primary language.
LCR’s demand letter also describes how mailed notices are insufficient to prevent MassHealth enrollees identifying as housing instable from losing their benefits because of the high likelihood that the notices will be sent to an address that has been changed. The pandemic has exacerbated housing instability, particularly for low-income families and communities of color. Further, the notice directs most enrollees to update their information online, even though many low-income families do not have internet service at home.
“Ensuring adequate notice is not only necessary from a public health perspective, it is also legally required,” said Attorney Erika Richmond of Lawyers for Civil Rights. “The due process protections of the U.S. and Massachusetts Constitutions provide for meaningful notice and reasonable procedures that do not unlawfully deprive enrollees of their benefits.”
Attorney Richmond added that unless immediate measures are taken to rectify the MassHealth redetermination process, low-income families and children who are housing unstable, along with many members of the immigrant population, will receive inadequate notice, causing them to improperly lose their benefits. This would violate well-established core due process protections.
This potential loss of benefits is deeply problematic – not only because of the interruption of life-saving medical care, but also because COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact vulnerable communities. Continued access to COVID-related medical care and treatment remains vital. MassHealth’s goal should be the enrollment of 300,000 new members – not the elimination of 300,000 members.
The demand letter is available here:MassHealth-Advocacy-Letter-FINAL