Pregnant Woman Describes Nightmare Process to Obtain Missouri Medicaid

by

Bridget Frischer. - USED WITH PERMISSION
  • Used with permission
  • Bridget Frischer.
Bridget Frischer's months-long scramble to obtain Medicaid coverage hit its low point in August. Upon checking her mail, the expectant mother found a form letter stating that her application had been denied. She recalls one section reading, "Your application has been denied because," with room to fill in a reason.

The reason, though, had been left blank.

"There was nothing after the because," Frischer says. "I tried to call, they couldn't tell me anything. So I had to start over."

It wasn't the first time she'd faced a mysterious denial, but as the weeks dragged on her frustration mounted. Lost paperwork and badly implemented deadlines made dealing with the Department of Social Services a nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions. In fact, it finally took a letter to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to get a caseworker to sort through the mess. 

When she finally did speak with the caseworker, Frischer was told that her August application had been denied in error.

This week, Frischer finally got the good news she'd been waiting for.

"Today I was approved for Missouri Medicaid," she wrote in a lengthy missive posted to Facebook on Wednesday. "It took 33 weeks, 8 applications, a chapter of faxed paperwork, dozens of phone calls, and lots and lots of anguish, but finally, I have the health care coverage the state offers to low-income women like me."

Shared dozens of times, the post drew comments from other women who had jumped the bureaucratic hurdles to obtain the state-provided healthcare. 

"I knew from the beginning that this would be a fight, but I didn't know it would be this extreme," says Frischer, who lives with her fiancé in Bel Nor. "Why do I have to beg for my health insurance that I’ve earned by paying taxes for 15 years?"

Although she hasn't received an official response from the governor's office, Frischer believes her letter to Nixon is the only reason she broke through the web of disinterested government bureaucrats. She's allowing Riverfront Times to reprint the letter. Here it is, in full:  

To the Office of the Governor: good morning.

I am writing to you as a woman who is 39 weeks pregnant. I have applied for Medicaid at least seven times, and every time have received a pitiful excuse regarding why my application was not approved. As a Missourian whose gross income will be less than $10,000 this year, as a person who dedicates her time to volunteer work and is in the process of establishing a 501c3 nonprofit to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to under-served, low-income families, and as a pregnant woman who has dutifully paid taxes her entire working life, the unavailability and inaccessibility of health care services to those who qualify is a damning representation of Missouri's dedication to its families.

Timeliness is a glaring issue when it comes to application response. For several applications I received by mail requests for more information, but in all of these instances I received the request either on the day of or after the last day to send a response for approval. I always sent in the information anyway, but when I followed up I would be told that I would have to reapply for benefits because the information was too late.

Other applications garnered no response from DSS other than a denial letter 6 weeks later. When I would call to ask why my application was not approved, I would be told that I did not respond to requests for more information. I followed up with this statement because I never received these requests to which I needed to respond. One worker was able to look up my information and found that these requests were returned non-deliverable because the address was wrong. Tell me Governor: how could DSS enter my address incorrectly for followup requests but have it correct for denial letters? I am still very confused about that and would love some information as to how that happens.

Several months ago I went to an office in the hopes of speaking to a case worker, in order to turn in my information all at once and expedite the process. I even brought in photocopies of every bit of personal information I thought necessary — proof of pregnancy, my state identification, birth certificate, pay stubs, et cetera — to save the workers some time! Unfortunately, I found out one can no longer visit with case workers in person and was told to fill out a paper application. Even more unfortunate than this is the fact that the under-dressed employee who was concurrently making a call on his personal cell phone gave me the wrong application to fill out (in this case, the application for disabled persons), and again my application was denied as I am not disabled.

Last week I printed out and mailed yet another application and included copies of every document that has been requested previously, but I am not feeling very hopeful. Considering that I have applied so many times and been denied through no fault of my own, I feel like the state of Missouri and the Department of Social Services have left me in a bind and with no options other than begging the hospital for a deduction in fees when I go into labor which, again, could be any day. This is an absolute failure of the health care system enacted by the state, and I am ashamed of what I have experienced and how I have been treated in the 32 weeks since my first application for Missouri Medicaid was submitted.

Could your office please explain to me what I have done wrong? How could I have made this process easier? Do I have any hope for receiving MoHealthNet benefits and if so, can I be refunded for the 32 weeks of doctor's fees I have paid out of pocket since my first application was wrongfully denied?

Thank you for your time. Please let me know what I can do as soon as possible.

Yours,
Bridget Frischer

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_ Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com

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