The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a second class-action lawsuit against the state over problems related to its public benefits system, known as UHIP.
In the latest suit, filed in U.S. District Court, Providence, the ACLU claims the state computer system has been cutting off residents from Medicaid, the government health insurance program, without explaining why. The plaintiffs include elderly residents and those with disabilities who the ACLU says are falling behind on their utility bills and having trouble paying for housing and food.
The suit centers on residents enrolled in a Medicaid program that pays monthly premiums and other costs for residents enrolled in Part B of Medicare, the government insurance program for residents 65 and older. The costs of Medicare Part B – which covers expenses for doctors, outpatient services and durable medical equipment – include premiums of $134 per month.
The ACLU suit claims that cutting off residents from the Medicaid Payment Program prompted the Social Security Administration to think the state had stopped paying their Medicare. The SSA then started deducting the $134 in monthly in Medicare premiums from their monthly social security checks.
Although Rhode Island Legal Services was able to work with state officials to resolve complaints on an individual basis, the lawsuit said, the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services “failed to fix the problem systemically and reinstate every individual whose (Medicaid Payment Program) benefits were terminated and ensure that each individual received all the retroactive benefits that were due.”
This marks the second class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the agency. In December 2016, the ACLU and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice sued the state on behalf of Rhode Islanders who faced delays in receiving their foods stamps.