Feds approve first step of Florida’s Medicaid managed care pushby John Kennedy | February 4th, 2013
The Obama administration has approved Florida’s first step toward moving Medicaid patients into managed care programs — endorsing an approach advanced two years ago by the Legislature that stalled awaiting federal action, Gov. Rick Scott said Monday.
The waiver approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Department of Health and Human Services allows state officials to begin moving long-term care patients into managed care programs. The state has already chosen five health plans that patients and their families can choose from. Scott was expecting a decision by Thursday, but federal officials informed Florida of the approval late Friday.
“I am appreciative that HHS approved one of our two important Medicaid waivers, and that they have done so before the February 7th deadline,” Scott said. “The additional flexibility provided through this waiver helps improve our current system, and HHS approval allows us to begin implementing changes to our current Medicaid program.”
A larger waiver, allowing for a full, statewide managed care program is still awaiting approval. Scott urged federal officials to OK that plan, which is emerging as an element in the state’s consideration of embracing the Medicaid expansion authorized under the Affordable Care Act.
Florida’s Medicaid toll has spiked with the recession and its aftermath. Medicaid costs now absorb close to one-third of the state’s $70 billion budget.
Scott and leading Republican lawmakers, however, say the managed care approach can save Florida money. Medicaid’s costs also rise with fraud and waste, which lawmakers said managed care companies would have more incentive to erase.
The federal application builds on the HMO-styled health coverage plans introduced for Medicaid patients in Broward, Baker, Clay, Nassau and Duval counties, beginning in 2006. But that program has drawn mixed reviews from policy analysts, who question purported cost-savings and quality of patient care.
Many patients have complained about dealing with a revolving door of managed care plans, or having to travel long distances to receive specialty care.