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Thousands of Medicaid Applications Go Unprocessed in South Carolina

Nina Liss-Schultz

In South Carolina, tens of thousands of Medicaid applications are stuck in processing backlog, leaving residents wondering whether they qualify for the government health insurance.

In South Carolina, tens of thousands of Medicaid applications are stuck in processing backlog, leaving residents wondering whether they qualify for the program.

According to the Post and Courier, between the beginning of October 2013—when the first open enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act began—and mid-July, some 43,000 South Carolina residents applied for the government insurance program designed for low-income people. Only 25 percent of those applications have been processed by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

South Carolina is one of 24 states that decided not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Under the health-care overhaul, states that expand Medicaid eligibility to individuals with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level will have their programs completely funded by the federal government until 2017.

Still, since the rollout of the website, South Carolina has seen a barrage of applications for its Medicaid program. The Post and Courier says that the state’s Department of Health and Human Services has pledged to get through the backlogged applications within 20 business days, and that it has increased personnel assigned to the applications in order to meet the goal.

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South Carolina is only one of many states struggling to keep up with increased Medicaid enrollment. The Obama administration last month sent letters to six states warning them that they are not complying with federal rules related to Medicaid application processing, and asking them to come up with plans to get rid of the backlog. Tennessee, one of the recipients of the White House letter, is the subject of a class-action lawsuit whose plaintiffs argue that the state has created bureaucratic hurdles with the intention to limit enrollment. At one point this year, there were almost a million applications backlogged in California. The state has since come up with a plan to cut that number down to 350,000 in the coming weeks.

As of the end of May, Medicaid enrollment under Obamacare had reached 6.7 million. At the same time, some 1.7 million of those were still waiting to be processed.

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