FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 13, 2023
More than a dozen organizations say Florida Medicaid program violates Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Law
TAMPA, Florida (September 13, 2023) — Today, UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, accompanied by 12 other state and national organizations, filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services outlining Florida’s illegal discrimination against families and children who are Latino, African American, or immigrants in Florida’s Medicaid redetermination process.
The complaint explains that such discrimination violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids recipients of federal funds from discriminating based on race or national origin.
“Floridians want their leaders to make sure our children grow up healthy and strong. With two-thirds of Florida’s children relying on Medicaid for their health care, Florida should be leaving no stone unturned in making sure that all eligible children keep their health care,” said UnidosUS Florida Director Jared Nordlund.
“Instead, Florida has erected a barricade of red tape and bureaucracy that prevents hard-working parents from providing the information needed to renew their children’s health coverage” explained Nordlund.
Outlined in the civil rights complaint are some of the barriers that are currently preventing many Floridians, especially those from underserved communities, from verifying their families’ continued Medicaid eligibility, including:
- Limited access to the Medicaid agency website. The online portal to process the renewal paperwork is not available on mobile and can only be accessed by laptop or desktop computer. Many families from historically disadvantaged communities do not have such a computer and can only access the internet via smartphone, leaving them unable to establish their families’ eligibility by going online.
- Understaffed call centers. According to a recent UnidosUS study, the average English-language caller must wait 36 minutes to speak to an operator, while the average Spanish-language caller must wait nearly two and a half hours. These wait times create huge barriers for low-wage workers who cannot afford to take that much time off to complete the process. The UnidosUS study also found that the call center terminated 10% of all English-language calls before they were answered. By contrast, nearly a third (30%) of all Spanish-language calls were dropped before they were answered.
- Discriminatory community engagement. Local organizations cannot be certified as “approved community partners” unless they complete specific on-line courses, two of which are available only in English. Community health workers with limited English proficiency thus find it difficult to qualify for the certification that would make it possible for them to submit information electronically on behalf of families with whom they work. As a result, Latino and immigrant communities are often denied access to effective assistance that would preserve Medicaid for eligible families.
"Upholding Title VI and equitable use of federal funds is vital for communities of color. This commitment ensures that every citizen, regardless of their background, has equal access to essential services and opportunities. To not prioritize children’s healthcare at a time when Floridians are struggling to keep up with basic needs like housing and the cost of living is reckless, at best.” said Equal Ground Founder and Director Jasmine Burney-Clark.
"Ensuring that hardworking families in Florida have access to Medicaid and children’s health insurance without delay, isn't just a matter of healthcare equity, it's a lifeline to those in need and the right thing to do. Unnecessary administrative burdens, including the severe lack of quality and immediate language assistance imposed by the state is unacceptable and detrimentally harmful to the very children and families these programs were designed to support,” said Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum President and CEO Juliet K. Choi.
Other civil rights and realth equity organizations that signed onto the complaint include: Central Florida Jobs with Justice, Florida Health Justice Project, Florida Policy Institute, Hispanic Services Council, Housing Education Alliance, Latino Leadership, National Immigration Law Center, Protect Our Care, State Innovation Exchange Action, Equal Ground, and MomsRising/MamásConPoder.
UnidosUS is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that serves as the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Since 1968, we have challenged the social, economic, and political barriers that affect Latinos through our unique combination of expert research, advocacy, programs, and an Affiliate Network of nearly 300 community-based organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico. We believe in an America where economic, political, and social progress is a reality for all Latinos, and we collaborate across communities to achieve it.
ABOUT EQUAL GROUND
Equal Ground Education Fund is one of Florida’s preeminent Black lead political organizations that aims to protect and expand Black voting rights and close the Black political leadership gap. As a voting rights organization headquartered in Orlando, FL, we work to ensure that every voter has the freedom to vote without facing unnecessary barriers. We achieve this long-term mission and goal through voter registration, education, mobilization, and litigation.
ABOUT THE ASIAN & PACIFIC ISLANDER AMERICAN HEALTH FORUM
The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) influences policy, mobilizes communities and strengthens programs and organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.