DCF call center has second-longest wait times in the country; $12M might help

Closeup portrait, stressed young man in purple sweater, shocked surprised, horrified and disturbed, by what he sees on his cell phone, isolated indoors background.
'We’re going through our calls, and I was seeing this massive number of disconnects.'

Floridians calling the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for help with Medicaid and other programs face the second-longest wait times in the country, according to a February report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). On average, people have to wait 42 minutes to talk to an agent, and 44% of calls get abandoned.

From April to November, wait times at the DCF call center have fluctuated between half an hour and more than 40 minutes, and the call abandonment rates have been as high as 48%, according to monthly data the Department submits to the federal government. Florida’s metrics are among the worst in the country.

(The data states submit to CMS is not uniform. For example, the data from Florida only includes calls transferred to a live agent. Other states may also include calls handled by automated systems.) The state with the longest average wait time is New Mexico with 43 minutes, followed by Florida, Nevada and Tennessee.

Hoping to alleviate the problem, lawmakers agreed to put $12,261,444 for the call center in the state budget for Fiscal Year 2024-25. Lawmakers approved the $117.46 billion state budget last week, but Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to sign off on it and he can veto various budget items.

“I thought it was very important. We want to make sure that individuals who are having a problem getting onto Medicaid or have issues or questions have timely access to answers,” Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell told Florida Phoenix last week. She is the Chair of the Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services.

Long wait times and high disconnect rates

UnidosUS, a Latino civil rights organization, has been lobbying Florida legislators to invest in the call center — in the 2024-25 state budget documents, it is described as the Economic Self Sufficiency Customer Call Center that fields inquiries for programs such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Cash Assistance. The UnidosUS Florida team has also conducted two reports illustrating longer wait times and higher abandonment rates than in the February report from CMS.

“One thing that we had seen is that as we were talking with legislators, and with our first report, was that they didn’t see anybody coming to them with real, concrete information around what’s happening and why,” said Jared Nordlund, UnidosUS’ Political Director for the state, in an interview with the Phoenix.

“Once we gave them our first report out there, they used that to really understand what was going on. So that’s when we began lobbying them that the call center is woefully underfunded. That’s causing these problems and it’s only going to compound, and they’ve got to get other under control because, at the end of the day, we’re messing up people’s health care.”

Although the wait times improved since the last time UnidosUS tested the call center in August, the line for English speakers had an average wait of 66 minutes, and the wait averaged 47 minutes for the Spanish helpline, according to the report. The number of disconnected or abandoned calls, which was 80% for the English line and 82% for the Spanish line, surprised Nordlund the most.

To gather the data, UnidosUS staff members made 49 calls in English and 36 in Spanish to the DCF call center from Jan. 5-22, 2024. They called the information line at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. from Monday through Friday.

“We’re going through our calls, and I was seeing this massive number of disconnects. I was talking to my staff; I was like, ‘Guys, it’s really. Are you guys doing it right,’” Nordlund said. “We were double-checking our work because we couldn’t believe the disconnect rate being so high.”

Medicaid coverage loss

Indira Navas, a UnidosUS campaign strategist in Miami-Dade County, said she waited three hours on the phone to get answers from DCF about her son’s loss of Medicaid coverage. She found out her 6-year-old son no longer had health insurance from the staff at the psychologist’s office where he had an appointment. However, DCF didn’t give her an explanation as to why her son but not her daughter had lost coverage, which both were approved to have until the fall, Navas said in a phone interview with the Phoenix.

“What is happening to me is happening to a lot of people. I am able to select the English helpline option. I have access to a computer. I am knowledgeable about the process, and I still haven’t been able to solve the problem,” Navas said. “Their explanation is that my income is too high, but then why does my eldest daughter still have Medicaid while my son doesn’t? It doesn’t make sense that they took my son off it because he has special needs.”

Navas’ son is one of 1.3 million Floridians who have lost insurance coverage since the state’s reevaluation of Medicaid eligibility after the end of continued coverage under the COVID-19 emergency, according to health policy research center KFF’s nationwide data tracker. Nearly 60% of the people who lost Medicaid in Florida were bumped from the program because of procedural reasons — including lack of necessary information to determine eligibility or because the state has outdated contact information — and not because they weren’t eligible.

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families has been monitoring the Medicaid unwinding process nationally. Its Executive Director, Joan Alker, said the $12 million appropriation for the call center is a step in the right direction considering the state’s handling of the review process.

“It would have been preferable to make sure the call centers had adequate resources before the process started. But having said that, there’s probably a whole lot of folks who have lost Medicaid inappropriately and may try to reenroll in the program,” Alker said in a phone interview with the Phoenix.

“One thing that I think is really important in this process, especially in a state like Florida, where we’ve seen high procedural terminations is that elected officials promote a message for families to let them know that, particularly, if their child has lost coverage, there’s a good chance the child is still eligible, and there are ways to help them to get their coverage back.”

UnidosUS plans to continue publishing reports about the wait times and lobbying for changes in the call center during the 2025 Legislative Session, Nordlund said.

DCF did not provide comment at the time of publishing.


Jackie Llanos reporting. Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: [email protected]. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

Florida Phoenix

Florida Phoenix is a news and opinion outlet focused on government and political news coverage within the state of Florida.


  • Aggie

    March 13, 2024 at 2:55 pm

    I worked for Florida DCF processing applications for assistance almost a decade ago. I quit because their policy is to deny benefits for the slightest of reasons including if the wrong box is checked on an application despite the applicant’s intent being perfectly clear. In a case such as this I was reprimanded for taking the time to contact the applicant to clarify. My point is that forcing applicants to jump through hoops to get and keep any assistance is policy so it’s no surprise they don’t feel the need to respond to any questions or make information readily available. That’s not just a DCF problem it’s SOP for any of the state’s departments. If you don’t have a politician friend, good luck getting anything done

    • Free the Willies of Tallahassee

      March 13, 2024 at 4:01 pm

      The Free State of Florida: you are Free to call any state agency anytime, and you are Free to wait on hold for as long as you wish, and if someone finally does answer you and hears what you have to say, you are Free to say Thanks for nothing when it is nothing that you get.
      You are free to call again, anytime, if you have anytime left.

  • TJC

    March 13, 2024 at 4:15 pm

    Kudos to Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell and her committee for putting over 12 million dollars into the call center to help families reapply for the Medicaid help that her fellow GOP legislators and Governor pulled out from under unsuspecting eligible recipients rather than work with them to determine ongoing eligibility.

  • A White Paper On Christianity

    March 14, 2024 at 1:05 am

    House Republicans desperately want out of their self-inflicted chaos

    Some House GOP lawmakers want a redo of the 118th Congress — especially when it comes to the rules that handcuffed former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and led to his ouster last fall.

    Why it matters: The House GOP has been unable to consistently act like it has the majority, with members blaming the dysfunction on everything from each other to McCarthy and new Speaker Mike Johnson.
    Zoom in: Johnson (R-La.) has come under fire over from members across his conference. Moderates have taken aim at his inexperience and compromise-resistant conservatives arguing he isn’t fighting hard enough for their priorities.

    But even some of Johnson’s critics say McCarthy’s concessions on rules that allowed a small minority of right-wingers to oust him — as well as deals made during the debt-ceiling talks last year — put Johnson in a series of no-win scenarios.

  • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

    March 14, 2024 at 7:06 am

    Good Morn ‘ting Florida,
    Pay no attention to the “Dook 4 Brains Leftist Commenters” above.
    Florida as a whole (with the exception of the 3 or 4 Dook 4 Brains Grand-Standers above) is so greatfull we have Ron and The Incredably Beautiful Casey DeSantis here in Florida “Large And In-Charge” to react appropriatly to these alligations of long wait-times.
    Most likely the alligations are totally false and hatefull and devisicive “Lies” propagated by a current or former DCF employee much in the same way Rebekka Jones ( Former DOH Florida employee who is now Chastized as a total Dook 4 Brains Dirty Rotton Pookey-Faced Liar ).
    We are all so greatfull that Ron “The Ronald” and his wife Casey will lead us forward in resolving these (likley fake) issues and hence-forth punishing the dirty rotton scoundrals who “Massaged The DCF Call-Wait-Times” to make The Sage Ron & Casey look bad in these busy times leading up to the defeat of that “Puppet 8IDEN”
    The above “Article” will be proven to be based on 86.333% Lies, D@mn Lies, and Statistics “Massaged” by an internal Weasel much like that whole “Rebekka Jones” fiasco was proven to be. So “Relax Your Sphincters” secure in the knowledge that EARL just busted the Lefty employees sicko game “Wide-Open”.
    Thank you Florida, Thank you America, Thank you Sage Patriots Everywhere,
    Earl Pitts American

    • S. Wabbit

      March 14, 2024 at 2:23 pm

      You dook.

      • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

        March 14, 2024 at 6:13 pm

        Earl still Loves The Wabbit. You wouldent call me a dook if you dident still love me,
        Thanks Beloved Wabbit, EPA

    • rick whitaker

      March 14, 2024 at 8:10 pm

      earl, you just stated in too many words, that if earl likes it,, it is true, but if earl doesn’t like it, it’s a lie. earl that makes you and your opinions toddlerish. earl, now throw a tantrum and call my truth about you a lie. i’ll ask you in your terms, tighten your sphincter because nothing is going to go your way for quite a while. a toddlerish response would be for you to stomp and hold your breath. earl shitts, what a pile.

  • Hung Wiil

    March 14, 2024 at 5:50 pm

    DCF sucks. The worst government agency ever. Giving them $50 million wouldn’t help. They harass good parents, let bad ones, especially killers, have full custody, and are staffed by middle-aged divorcees who previously worked at the Arby’s drive-thru. Lot’s of examples, but check out Joy King Castro. F DCF.

  • Flash Light

    March 15, 2024 at 6:58 am

    Try calling any Florida agency to get the help you deserve as a taxpayer …
    DPBR, Unemployment Assistance, Child Support – the list goes on.
    Defunding and privatizing began under Jeb Bush and continues to this day.
    Good Luck indeed!

Comments are closed.


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