Montgomery County nearly eliminates Medicaid backlog, officials say

The Montgomery County Administration Building. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
The Montgomery County Administration Building. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Montgomery County’s Family Assistance Division nearly eliminated a significant Medicaid backlog in just a few months, officials said Friday.

The backlog was exacerbated by the Memorial Day tornadoes, said Deputy Assistant Director of the Family Assistance Division Patrick Bailey.

In June, the department had 2,004 unprocessed Medicaid applications that had been sitting in the system for 180 days or longer. Some of those applications were duplicates, Bailey said. In July, the department had 377 applications that old.

By August, the department reduced the number of backlogged Medicaid applications to just 18.

Today, the Family Assistance Division has about 300 cases that are 45 days old.

“In a perfect world, all cases would be processed in 45 days,” Bailey said.

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This means in June there were nearly 2,000 Montgomery County residents who were waiting to get Medicaid. Bailey said every case varies, but that means some of those people were uninsured.

The pileup of Medicaid applications has been a problem statewide since 2014, Bailey said. But the record 15 tornadoes that ripped through the region in May made the problem worse for Montgomery County.

After the Memorial Day tornadoes, about 9,000 requests for emergency SNAP replacement, among other requests for aid, poured into the department.

“When you have thousands of people asking for help, you have to redirect your resources,” Bailey said. “And then that impacts how much you can get done. There’s only so much you can get done in a work day.”

A provision in the Affordable Care Act called for an expansion of Medicaid eligibility at the end of 2013, which gave the county more cases to process.

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Bailey said about 140,000 Montgomery County residents, or about 20% of the population, are on some form of Medicaid.

“That’s a lot of people we’re serving,” Bailey said. “And it’s important for us to be a safety net for the community.”

To fix this, the department created a database where these applications and their progress were closely monitored. Bailey said overtime for staff was also strategically used to process as many cases as possible.

The department must assess whether or not an applicant is eligible for Medicaid and part of that process is communicating back and forth with a checklist of things needed to prove eligibility. Bailey said staff is purposely scheduled for overtime on days many applicants are likely to return those checklists.

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