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Groups Say State Bungled Medi-Cal Renewal

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Hundreds of thousands of Medi-Cal beneficiaries could lose coverage this year due to the state's poor handling of the annual renewal process, community groups claim in court.

Oakland's Korean Community Center of the East Bay and Los Angeles' Korean Resource Center, which serve low-income Korean Americans, sued the California Department of Health Care Services on Monday in Alameda County Court.

They claim the state's "short-cutting" of the renewal process could lead to "hundreds of thousands" of people being cut from the rolls.

The renewal process was changed this year to align with expanded Medi-Cal eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.

But the plaintiffs say the health department isn't providing beneficiaries with protections mandated by law.

They claim the health department did not include required information in recent termination notices about beneficiaries' right to re-establish Medi-Cal eligibility.

In addition, the health department provided the renewal materials only in English, excluding "hundreds of thousands" of beneficiaries who speak little or no English, according to the lawsuit.

"In all prior years [the health department] translated the annual eligibility redetermination forms," the complaint states. "As a result, most ... beneficiaries expect to receive vital information in their language."

Forty percent of the Medi-Cal population speak a language other than English, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs are backed by attorneys from a wide coalition of advocacy groups, including the Western Center on Law & Poverty, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and Bay Area Legal Aid.

They seek a peremptory writ of mandate and temporary restraining order prohibiting the state from cutting off beneficiaries without providing language-accessible materials as well as an ex parte review process and provision of written notice that includes beneficiaries' rights.

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