Federal regulators have asked the state to work on resolving its backlog of more than 70,000 applications from poor and disabled Ohioans seeking Medicaid benefits, according to the state's Medicaid director.
Regulators have indicated Ohio isn't where it needs to be regarding Medicaid applications and remain concerned, even though the number of pending applications has dropped about 30% in recent months, said Maureen Corcoran, director of the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
Corcoran said regulators asked Ohio to put together a plan addressing the issue, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The delays in applications, with most pending more than 45 days, are causing people to wait to receive health care and creating financial burdens for some providers such as nursing homes caring for residents who are unable to pay.
"It's causing a great deal of pressure on the counties, as well as causing people to wait unacceptably long amounts of time," Corcoran said.
Federal guidelines require applications for coverage and annual renewals to maintain benefits to be processed within 45 days for non-disability requests and 90 days for disability ones. County caseworkers must verify applicants' income before they can be approved. For those seeking long-term care, assets going back five years also must be identified.
Corcoran said factors contributing to the backlog include the state's online eligibility system and high turnover among caseworkers.
Kate McGarvey, executive director of Ohio State Legal Services, said advocates have urged the state to simplify the application process within federal guidelines.
One suggestion would be to allow beneficiaries to be automatically renewed if the online system is able to check required information such as an individual's income through tax returns or other data.
State lawmakers raised concerns about the backlog when Corcoran testified recently before the state House Finance Committee.
"We have been notified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that they'll be putting us under a plan of correction for this because it has not been remedied," Corcoran told legislators, noting the problem predated the current administration.
Officials with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services declined to comment, according to the newspaper. Messages seeking comment were left with that agency Sunday.
Corcoran said state officials are working closely with Ohio's large counties "'to diagnose what's causing the backlog, how can we fix the system, how can we automate stuff."
Ohio's Medicaid program covers about 2.8 million people.