Medicaid Mess in Florida

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says Medicaid costs are skyrocketing out of control and it’s not fair to the taxpayers who pick up the tab. One of his proposals to save money would require Medicaid patients to use the least expensive drugs available, but patients say the state’s efforts to cut costs could put their lives at risk.

Kidney transplant recipient Terence Stevens relies on Medicaid for his health care. He says he takes five mostly name brand prescriptions a day to stay alive.

Stevens is worried about the state’s proposal to limit the drugs he can take to the least expensive, usually generics. He says they’re just not always as good.

Terence says, "Sometimes you’re forced into a situation where you take a generic and it’s not as stable and it affects other drugs that you take and it’s almost like a balancing act.”

Nearly two and a half million people in Florida could be affected by the cost-cutting move, most of them poor, elderly, or very sick, but Jeb Bush says something’s got to give.

Medicaid costs are growing faster than the state’s ability to keep up, and lawmakers are going to have to make some tough decisions.

Gov. Jeb Bush says, “We’ve got to control costs. If not, then the argument in the Legislature is who do we cut off the rolls? And that should not be the argument, that should be the last, last, last resort.”

Making Medicaid patients use cheaper drugs could save the state up to $90 million a year, but patient advocates say it’s a cruel way to cut costs given the state’s rosy economic picture.

Anne Swerlick, a patient advocate, says, "Why are we trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor in a year when we have $4.5 billion excess state revenues?

Advocates admit government does need to get a handle on ballooning Medicaid costs and drug companies should play a roll in keeping prices down, but patients don’t think they should have to risk their health to save a buck.

The governor says Medicaid eats up one out of every four state budget dollars $15 billion in the coming year alone, but the Medicaid prescription drug proposal still needs legislative approval to go forward. A similar plan failed last year.