ABLE's Healthcare Advocacy program addresses legal issues faced by low-income, Ohio families seeking access to high-quality healthcare that is effective, efficient, safe, timely, patient-centered, culturally competent, and equitable for all. ABLE attorneys work to directly address the political, economic, social, and cultural barriers to access to healthcare through coordinated advocacy on local, regional and state levels.
Helping to eliminate backlog
This past Spring, ABLE was part of a statewide group of attorneys that contacted the Ohio Department of Job and Family Service's (ODJFS) Bureau of State Hearings (BSH) regarding their failure to comply with the timelines for issuing hearing decisions set forth in the consent decree in ABLE's Peppers v. Barry case from the 1980s. Peppers had established timelines for processing hearing requests, conducting hearings, and issuing hearing decisions so that clients denied access to government benefits could have a timely opportunity to present their case before a hearing officer. Due to the economic downturn, BSH had downsized at precisely the same time that many more low-income clients were seeking to access benefits, generating more appeals and requests for hearings than in prior years. This quickly produced a backlog that forced some clients to wait more than three months before even having an opportunity to present their cases.
As a result of this coordinated advocacy at the state level, ODJFS ultimately agreed to hire five additional hearing officers (three in the Toledo regional office) to deal with the backlog of cases. With the additional staff, BSH should be able to process about 1,000 more cases per month.
The advocates at ABLE who worked on this effort believe the additional staff will eliminate the backlog of hearings within a year, barring any significant changes in the volume, or unexpected loss in staff.