House Medicaid overhaul teed-upby John Kennedy | March 14th, 2011
The House version of a sweeping rewrite of Florida’s Medicaid program is poised for a vote this week — the first step toward a legislative end-game with the Senate aimed at yielding a statewide managed care program for the state’s low-income poor, disabled and elderly.
At some point, the federal government is going to have to give its OK to whatever Florida lawmakers agree on.
But House Health and Human Services Chairman Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, said it’s clear state lawmakers agree the goal is to get a handle on a program on track to absorb one-quarter of the state’s roughly $66 billion budget.
“I’m more focused on changing the Medicaid model at its core for generations to come,” said Schenck, who also said “this is a new day for Medicaid.”
Schenck’s committee held a public hearing on the measure Monday, and plans a Thursday vote. The House bill puts Medicaid’s 2.8 million Floridians into managed care programs operating in seven regions it also creates.
The Senate bill also looks to save cap Medicaid spending by shifting patients into HMO-like services, run by competing private companies and away from the fee-for-service model, ridiculed by critics as wasteful and inefficient.
The Senate legislation hasn’t drawn a full committee vote yet — although health care providers and those affected by the proposed change have jammed public hearings to question portions of the legislation.
The House had its own version of that Monday. Most who testified seemed resigned that major changes are coming this year — but many also sound wary.
Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, said lawmakers seem intent on ignoring results of a five-county pilot project started in 2006 under then-Gov. Jeb Bush. Schwartz’s home Broward County is among the five.
The program steered Medicaid patients into HMOs, but many of these private providers eventually abandoned the program — causing disruption in health care for many vulnerable Floridians, Schwartz said.
“It really is not working in Broward County,” Schwarts said.