Medicaid: Benefit Cuts Versus Savings

By: Whitney Ray Email
By: Whitney Ray Email

Tallahassee, FL -- March 31, 2001 -- Since early January protesters have been begging lawmakers to leave Medicaid alone. They’ve carried signs and pleaded with lawmakers… But their cries have been muffled by the 3.8 billion dollar budget deficit.

House Republicans say they can save a billion dollars by putting Florida’s three million Medicaid recipients in HMOs or other managed care programs.

“I think that the leadership has the right concept and they are going in the right direction,” said Representative Jimmie Smith.

The governor’s onboard.

“We’ve got to make sure we spend the money better,” said Rick Scott.

But Democrats say quality will suffer.

“By privatizing it we are taking and putting the care of these patients into the hands of those private companies and we know those private companies priority is to make a profit,” said Rep. Mia Jones.

With a GOP supermajority in the legislature and a Republican governor no one expects the bill to fail, but passing the reform legislation is just the first obstacle. The state will still have to get a waiver from the federal government to make the changes.

The state will have until December to get the waiver. Supports of the bill say if the feds won’t sign off, Florida will do something no state has ever done, start its own, scaled back Medicaid program.

Social service advocates say that would be, “Devastating, not only to the people it serves, remember the majority of people on Medicaid are children and behind that we have frail elderly people,” said Karen Woodall.

If the state pulled out of the entitlement program, It would lose 13 billion federal matching dollars. The state House began debating the Medicaid Reform Bill at 3:00. They’re expected to pass it before 5:00 EST. Next week the Senate is expected to take up the reform bill.


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