Long delays and dropped calls in Florida are keeping Hispanic families out of Medicaid, according to new UnidosUS report
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According to new research from UnidosUS, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights advocacy organization, Spanish-speaking Latino households looking to speak with Florida's Medicaid call centers are facing hours of delay which hinders their ability to provide information that may allow them to continue with the federal insurance program.
The report, first shared with NBC News, shows that an average Spanish-language caller had to wait just about four times longer compared to an English-language caller to be able to speak to a representative at Florida’s Medicaid call center, which does not include dropped calls.
Roughly one third (30%) of all Spanish-language calls were disconnected before the caller reached a representative, in stark comparison to 10% of English-language calls, according to the report published Thursday.
Over 400,000 Floridians have lost coverage since Covid-era protections ended this past March, while over half (55%) were unenrolled due to “procedural reasons,” not because they were found ineligible, according to the health research nonprofit KFF.
Unenrolled Spanish-speaking Latino families or who are on the brink of losing Medicaid have found it nearly impossible to plead their cases to the state because of “long and discriminatory delays” at Florida’s Medicaid call center, according to the report.
“They’re losing coverage simply because of missing paperwork or other bureaucratic factors,” Stan Dorn, director of the health policy project at UnidosUS and author of the report, told NBC News.
Other findings show that the average English-language caller faced a waiting time of 36 minutes and the average Spanish-language caller had to wait almost two-and-a-half hours.
Dorn called the numbers “shocking.”
“One big reason why so many people in Florida are losing their health care is because they simply can’t get through at the Medicaid call center to renew their children’s coverage,” Dorn said.
Over 3 million out of the roughly 5 million people who use Florida’s Medicaid program are children, and over a third are Hispanic.
The report did not explore the reasons behind the delays, but it does recommend that state lawmakers use some of Florida’s $20 billion budget surplus to “find the money needed to make call center services accessible to all Medicaid families, regardless of the language they speak.”
“It's a bad situation for all Florida families who need help, but it’s a particularly bad situation for people who speak Spanish,” Dorn said. "With half of the Medicaid beneficiaries who are Latino, having limited English proficiency, erecting these barriers for Spanish speakers to renew their children’s coverage is a terrible and unfair blow to Florida families.”