Advocates for the poor the state is so understaffed that it isn't processing Medicaid paperwork fast enough. The result, they say, is that the state misses federal deadlines and leaves thousands of poor patients without medical care. These arguments are now playing out in federal court.
The testimony on the first day of trial summed up the complaint. Two witnesses spoke of months of delays and unnecessary document requests on the part of the state. A supervisor at the Department of Social Services testified that it was a difficult to keep up with the volume of paperwork given what was, in her words, the sheer lack of staff. That's how the trial began in Hartford federal court. But in their questioning, attorneys for the state suggested a different storyline. Application delays can be caused by applicants who don't file the right paperwork at the right time. The department has also acknowledged huge staffing losses and rising caseloads. And the issue doesn't just affect Medicaid. Late last year, another federal judge ruled that the state was not promptly determining eligibility for food assistance. In court documents, the state admitted it faced systemic deficiencies in the way it processed food stamps. This week, that judge ordered the state to be in full compliance with federal requirements. In many ways, this all comes down to funding. And it's just by coincidence that both cases continue to unfold as the governor and the legislature continue to work on a budget.