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No more delays: Marylanders with disabilities now receiving Medicaid on time

February 24, 2014: Mary Lou Magee-Kern remembers the moment when her long-awaited Medicaid card came in the mail. Receiving the card was a huge relief after months of lost paperwork and agency delays. She could focus her attention on getting healthy again! Now tens of thousands of low-income Marylanders with disabilities will feel that same relief because Mary Lou’s lawsuit against the state has removed a barrier to accessing health care by eliminating the backlog of Medicaid applications and vastly decreasing the time the state takes to process applications.
This milestone came as the Public Justice Center, Homeless Persons Representation Project, and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice filed the final status report in Magee-Kern v. Dallas in early February 2014. It’s a remarkable conclusion to a case that began in January 2013 when Mary Lou came to the PJC, fed up with waiting for her Medicaid application to be reviewed. The Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR) is required by state law to process Medicaid - Aged, Blind, Disabled (MA-ABD) applications within 60 days, but the actual processing time was not even close. Mary Lou had been waiting for over 200 days. Tens of thousands of Marylanders also faced such illegal delays, their illnesses worsening with each day they were denied access to doctors and medical attention.
In April 2013, DHR agreed to resolve the delays and respond more promptly to applicants. Since then, the changes at DHR resulting from this settlement have been impressive. This victory removed one more barrier that stood between low-income individuals and the medical care. Here’s what has happened in the months following the settlement: 

•   Mary Lou Magee-Kern was found eligible for Medicaid within a day of filing. Now that she has Medicaid benefits, she has been able to see specialists and get the medical attention she desperately needed.

•   As of January 15th of this year, the longstanding backlog of applications has been completely eliminated. 

•   DHR now takes less than 60 days on average to process the applications. In fact, the average number of days for processing fell to 22 days for approvals and 36 days for denials as of December 2013.  

•   Individuals whose income was less than 138% of the federal poverty line and who had an MA-ABD application pending on January 1, 2014, were enrolled in the Medicaid expansion without the need to file a new application. 

Congratulations to PJC attorney Camilla Roberson and our colleagues at Homeless Persons Representation Project and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice on securing a victory for thousands of people across Maryland. We are also very grateful to Mary Lou Magee-Kern for her willingness to be the class representative in this case. This victory would not have happened without her perseverance and tenacity, which we honored with our Courage Award in 2013. 

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