Feds letter puts more pressure on Florida Legislature regarding Medicaid reform

Former Governor Jeb Bush began a pilot project back in 2006 of privatizing Medicaid in five Florida counties.

That move was controversial, and there has been conflicting data about how successful that's turned out.

Representative Elaine Schwartz (D-Hollywood), the Democratic ranking member on the House Health & Human Services Quality Subcommittee, issued a press release Thursday night extolling the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:

With so many unemployed Floridians desperately needing health care and relying on Medicaid, this decision gives us confirmation that someone up there is watching out.

“Despite the state’s attempts to cover up details and hide data about what has really occurred under the pilot Medicaid program, the feds have rightly taken notice that taxpayers’ dollars have not been adequately accounted for and quality care has not been accessible to the most vulnerable citizens.

“House Democratic Caucus members have repeatedly demanded evidence from state administrators about the performance of the pilot program. In these pilot project counties, we are aware of many people, including those who are blind, disabled and suffering from mental illnesses, who have been unable to access needed care without jumping through needless bureaucratic hoops, and health providers have not always been compensated for the care and services that they have delivered."

But the fed's letter doesn't mean that Medicaid reform can't happen. But currently the Senate's bill says that the state has to withdraw from but they have major differences. The Senate bill calls on the state to withdraw from Medicaid if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services doesn't approve the expansion of the plans. But House Speaker Dean Cannon has denounced that plan as being irresponsible.


There's more incentive than ever for the Florida House and Senate to come to an agreement on Medicaid reform.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that federal officials told state lawmakers that they can't privatize Medicaid statewide for now, saying they need to see specific details of how the state plans to change the program. The AP's Kelli Kennedy reports:

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent a letter to Florida health officials saying the agency will work with the state to approve a waiver by June 30. However, the agency can't approve expansion of the Florida's current five-county pilot program because the Legislature hasn't agreed on the changes that would be made if it went statewide. The current bill is stalled in the Senate.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos as recently as Wednesday said that medicaid reform (along with pension and education reform) was among the most important items to get accomplished before the Legislature closes its regular session, which is expected to be on May 5. There are currently 2.9 million Medicaid patients in the state.

Medicaid is the federal health care program for low income people that is paid for evenly between Washington and the individual states, and it continues to eat up a major portion of the state's budget.

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