[UPDATE] Florida House Passes Medicaid Privatization Plan

By: Associated Press, The News Service of Florida
By: Associated Press, The News Service of Florida

Tallahassee, FL (AP) - March 31, 2011 --

Private companies and networks of hospitals and other providers would deliver Medicaid health care services in Florida under legislation passed in the state House.

The House took up HB 7107, the first of two bills that dramatically overhaul the Medicaid system, shifting patients into private managed care plans.

“We all know the system is broken,” said Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, beginning about two hours of debate on whether essentially privatizing it was the correct fix.

For the most part the debate was as it has been on this issue throughout the process with Republicans saying that the care will be better with the injection of managed care, and that something must be done anyway because of runaway Medicaid costs. That cost is taking over the budget and making other needs drop down the list, more than one of them said.

Democrats raised concerns that the pilot program trying out a shift into Medicaid managed care hasn’t worked and now was being expanded statewide. Republicans countered that the new plan was taking the parts of the pilot plan that have worked and scrapping parts that didn’t.

Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, tried to raise the issue of Gov. Rick Scott’s relationship with Solantic, a medical clinic chain that currently contracts with Medicaid as a managed care provider. Scott has transferred his ownership stake in the company to his wife, which Pafford acknowledged.

But when Pafford mentioned Scott’s wife, Speaker Cannon cut him off, and urged Pafford to keep his remarks to the policy at hand.

“There are tremendous conflicts of interest with regard to this bill,” Pafford said. “Twenty billion dollars will be sent to for-profit managed care,” Pafford continued. “This is a giveaway of $20 billion to folks that work outside of the sunshine.”

Republicans continued to repeat that the current system doesn’t work – one noted that with recent cost increase trends the Medicaid program would soon cost $80 billion – more than the current state budget.

The bill passed 80-38 and now goes to the Senate.

The House then took up a companion Medicaid bill, HB 7109. The most controversial part of that measure is a limit on non-economic damages for negligence of providers in the program, along with a limit on medical malpractice non-economic damages as well.

The second Medicaid bill passed 78-39

The chamber voted along party lines Thursday on a pair of bills
(HB 7107, HB 7109) that Republican sponsors say would help curtail
the escalating cost of the $20 billion state-federal program that covers low-income and disabled people.

Democrats opposed the legislation, arguing that cost savings and
the quality of such managed care plans are uncertain.

They wanted to hold off on a decision until more information is
available from a five-county experiment in managed care.

The legislation next goes go to the Senate.

It also will require approval of a waiver by the federal government, which pays most of the cost.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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