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Senate Committee Approves Big Medicaid Change

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Florida Legislature. (Source: AP)

Florida Legislature. (Source: AP)

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Legislative Session Coverage

TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – A Florida Senate committee has approved a controversial proposal which would shift the delivery of most Medicaid services to private companies.

Calling it a “bold and transformative” change, the Senate Health Regulation Committee unanimously approved a bill that calls for shifting hundreds of thousands of women, children and seniors into HMOs and other types of managed-care organizations. Sponsors of the bill said moving to managed care organizations will cut rapidly rising health care costs.

“It’s crowding out funding for public education, for public transportation, public safety (and) economic development,” said Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron.

Negron, Republican from Stuart, was the bill’s chief sponsor. He said it will improve care for Medicaid beneficiaries who have been “second-class citizens” under the current fragmented system.

The bill did meet with some resistance.

Some senators worried about allowing managed-care companies to take over transportation services for Medicaid beneficiaries who need help getting to doctors’ appointments.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, said he worried that would hurt small local transportation businesses. “I believe they’re going to get squeezed out by conglomerates,” Latvala said.

But the committee, at Negron’s urging, rejected an amendment that would have excluded transportation from the managed-care system. Negron said he wants managed care, and not the state, to be responsible for making sure services are provided.

The full House is expected to pass its version of the Medicaid overhaul Thursday, setting up negotiations in the coming weeks to reach agreement on a final compromise.

If a final compromise is reached, and approved, Florida will need to get federal approval, what is known as a Medicaid “waiver”, to make major changes to the program.

Negron said he is optimistic about getting a waiver, but he also reiterated that the state should be willing to drop out of the federal program if necessary. Such a move would allow Florida to design its own program but would mean giving up billions of dollars a year in federal money.

“If that (denial of a waiver) were to happen, we set out specifically in the bill that we as a state would run our own Medicaid program,” Negron said.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

 

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