How long does it usually take for Medicaid to process paperwork?

Twdorman asked...

My older brother has been told he needs kidney dialysis. He tells us he is still waiting for Medicaid to "process" the paperwork to get him started. How long does it normally take for him to get started?? He was told he only had a year to live without dialysis, why would Medicaid make him wait?? Also, is there any option our family has to find out more information from the doctor even without my brother's permission or knowledge???

Expert Answer

Medicaid can take a number of weeks to process an application. That's because there is a lot of financial information that must be provided and checked, along with information about your brother's medical condition. The delay may be the result of your brother's difficulty in providing the information or simply because of the Medicaid office's administrative backlog. The good news is that if he is eventually approved for Medicaid benefits, those benefits can apply to any Medicaid-covered health care he received up to the beginning of the third month BEFORE he filed his application.

As far as finding out information about your brother's condition or treatment without his permission or knowledge, the answer is almost entirely No. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act - HIPAA keeps a patient's health insurance information private. Not only are a patient's medical records private, but a doctor may not even discuss the patient's condition or care except in very limited circumstances, and then only with a spouse or adult child. These restrictions may be frustrating to family members, but the law makes it clear that the patient's privacy is more important that other people's interests in knowing, no matter how well-intentioned they are. The best thing for you to do if you want to learn more about his condition is to discuss it with your brother. If he is willing to, he can give permission to his doctor to talk to you.