Florida Testing Ground for Medicaid Reform

Florida is the first state to attempt an overhaul of the health care program that serves low-income, disabled and elderly residents. The new law is intended to save taxpayers money while improving care for more than two million Floridians.

With a stroke of his pen, Jeb Bush sent Florida into the history books and one out of eight Floridians into uncertainty. The Medicaid reform bill the governor signed into law will bring sweeping changes to the system in Broward and Duval counties first, and eventually the rest of the state.

The new system lets people earn credits to pay for stop-smoking programs and over-the-counter medicine. Everyone gets to choose a customized benefit package, intended to tailor their health coverage to their needs. They can even opt out by using their Medicaid dollars toward private insurance offered by their employers. Still, thousands of people are nervous.

Lawmakers got an earful from worried Medicaid beneficiaries during hearing after hearing on the reform effort. But they’re promising the new system will be carefully monitored.

Patients will be able to see reports on customer satisfaction with different plans, how well children are being cared for, even wait times for customer assistance. Peoples’ very lives could depend on whether Florida’s Medicaid reform experiment succeeds or fails.

The new Medicaid program will begin in Broward and Duval counties next July, with a planned expansion to three other counties the following year. The goal is to expand the program statewide within five years.