Medicaid Reform a Priority for Legislative Session

Bill Rettinger has diabetes and a host of other health problems that left him relying on the state’s medically needy program for health care.

He’s angered that the governor’s proposed reforms would dramatically cut services he and more than two million Floridians rely on to stay alive.

Bill says, "It’s not like we’re asking for something for nothing. We paid into the system. I’ve paid into the system through my taxes since I was 14."

Jeb Bush wants to end all but prescription drug services for medically needy, limit available drugs to the least expensive, and put a cap on spending for the chronically ill. The goal: save $300 million the first year.

With only a little over a year to go until he’s out of office, the governor has made reining in Medicaid one of his top priorities. Jeb Bush wants Florida to serve as a model for the nation.

Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings says, "Obviously our Medicaid reform is a huge B-HAG as he likes to call it, ‘big, hairy audacious goal,’ something that needs to happen because of the growth rate in Medicaid in the state of Florida. If we don’t do it now it will consume 60 percent of our budget."

Karen Woodall lobbies on behalf of the poor and chronically ill. They want to help find solutions, but don’t think Medicaid itself is the problem.

Karen Woodall says, "The health care system is the problem, and the high cost of health care for everybody is a problem, so we have some concerns when Medicaid, which serves our most vulnerable residents, is targeted."

But even the advocates admit something has to be done to get costs under control. The Florida Senate has been holding public hearings on Medicaid reform throughout the state over the past month.

The final public hearing is scheduled for March 14 in Jacksonville. The governor is proposing to spend nearly $15 billion on Medicaid in the coming fiscal year. That’s an increase of more than $700 million. The difference will come in how the money is spent.

Late Monday, Gov. Jeb Bush submitted a supplemental budget request that would fully restore funding to Medicaid's medically needy program. Under the proposal, 39,500 Floridians who had been scheduled to lose all but prescription coverage will continue to receive health care services in the coming budget year. The proposal still needs legislative approval.