Missouri residents waiting months to find out if they have Medicaid coverage

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- More than 10,000 Missourians have been waiting months to find out if they get health insurance coverage. They went to the federal marketplace early this year with high hopes. Now they have frustration.

Shalise Williams is a child care worker who's currently homeless and relying on family and friends for shelter. That's not the only way she's stressed.

"Trying to get on this insurance has been really stressful. Very," said a tearful Williams.

In March, the Kansas City resident went online to the federal health insurance marketplace. With the help of Jim Torres, a counselor at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, it was determined she might be eligible for Missouri Medicaid, coverage for low-income citizens. She applied.

"I'm gonna have a real doctor. Was very hopeful. Now it's like those dreams just kinda faded," said Williams.

Five months later, she still doesn't know if she'll get Medicaid coverage. Many thousands of other Missourians are in the same boat. Delays have impacted not only residents who applied through the marketplace, but also those who've applied directly to the state this year.

"Those applications went from taking weeks or maybe a month or two to taking many months to get an answer," said Torres.

Williams said she's checked with the state many times.

"One lady was like -- 'Do you have your password?' or whatever it was to bring up the account. I gave it to her. She couldn't find my paperwork," said Williams.

State officials say computer software problems have been one factor. But they also suggest that the feds created the delays by flooding the state with marketplace applications from people who aren't going to qualify.

Torres suspects that when Williams receives an answer, it will be "no."

"My hunch is she's probably going to fall in what we call the Medicaid gap," said Torres.

The gap was created when Missouri didn't expand Medicaid to include 300,000 more residents.

Missouri is seeing the biggest drop in people on Medicaid of any state. Torres and some others believe it's related at least in part to the delays in getting new people on the Medicaid rolls as others drop off.