A federal health care law that was designed to prevent fraud and corruption has created an “unprecedented” backlog of applications for mass health benefits, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Washington found that the mass health benefit system, which is supposed to be a system for receiving benefits for a population of 2 million, is overburdened by the massive number of applications that are being submitted every month.
“This is unprecedented in the history of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote.
“This is especially troubling because, as we have seen time and again in past mass health programs, mass benefit applicants frequently are the least qualified applicants for mass benefit.”
The program was meant to be open to all citizens, including those who are temporarily disabled, elderly or in nursing homes, as well as individuals who have had serious medical issues, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS or AIDS-related illness, or those with disabilities.
However, the government has been unable to reach out to millions of those eligible for the program.
The appeals court in Washington, D.L., said the backlog created by the law is so large that many applicants have no choice but to wait for weeks or months for their applications to be processed.
“In a time of crisis, the public has a right to expect that all applications will be processed in an orderly fashion,” Judge Jackson wrote in her ruling.
She also said that the law “requires applicants to demonstrate an ability to work within the system, a requirement that is clearly not met for some applicants.”
Jackson said the appeals court should have ordered the government to “review and reconsider the application, if necessary,” but the agency failed to do so.
“The public is entitled to know the status of the mass benefit program, and the government is obligated to conduct the required review,” she wrote.
The court noted that the appeals system “is not limited to mass benefit applications.”
In one case, a Texas woman filed an application for a mass benefit in January 2015.
Her application was denied because she was “too far behind in the waiting list” and the state had “not yet decided to proceed.”
In another, a Virginia woman had her application rejected in November 2015 because she had “failed to demonstrate that he was qualified to work in the public health field,” the appeals panel wrote.
“We need a new law to provide the public with the assurance that mass benefit programs will be open and fair,” Rep. Scott Taylor, a Republican from Tennessee who has pushed for legislation that would make it easier to receive mass benefits, said in a statement.