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AJC: Georgia cutting Medicaid assistance to thousands
State says they failed to respond to renewal notices; patients say they never received them

ATLANTA — Georgia is terminating Medicaid assistance for about 17,000 poor, elderly or disabled Georgians after state officials say they failed to respond to renewal notices, a newspaper reported.

But some patients tell the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they never received renewal notices. Their lawyers point to computer accounts they say show that no such notices were ever sent.

Lawyers with the nonprofit Georgia Legal Services are working for some of the affected patients. They've written to the state Department of Community Health in an attempt to get the move reversed.

"We represent some of the most vulnerable people in Georgia, seniors and disabled Georgians who will not have access to health care if these programs are ended" for them, said Vicky Kimbrell, a Georgia Legal Services attorney.

Fiona Roberts, a Department of Community Health spokeswoman, told the Journal-Constitution that the 17,000 people had been "nonresponsive to the notices they received at the time they were up for renewal."

"When their eligibility was up, they had not responded to their notices, therefore, their cases were closed because they did not complete the renewal process," she said.

Roberts added that the people affected could submit either a renewal or application form in the three months after their closure. If they still qualify, their coverage will be reinstated back to the first of June, she said.

Army veteran Louis Askew, 70, said he received a cancellation notice from the state last month. Like the others, he is on Medicare, but he has so little money that Medicaid steps in to fill Medicare's gaps. Medicaid pays his Medicare premium of more than $100 per month, as well as prescriptions and co-pays.

Lily Foster, 77 and a stroke victim who lives near Vidalia, said nothing has changed in her financial circumstances or her need for the coverage. Her only income comes from Social Security, at less than $1,000 per month.

But suddenly her Georgia benefits dropped off. She didn't even know it until a lawyer who was trying to figure out why she lost food stamps looked through her file and found the Medicaid notice.

Both Foster and Askew went to state offices themselves to try to figure out why their benefits were being cut off, they say, but they were unable to get answers.

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