House votes to expand Medicaid reform
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04/10/08 Mitch E. Perry
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In Tallahassee, the House passed a controversial bill that will expand Medicaid reform in 2010 to nine additional counties, including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk.

The Medicaid reform pilot was launched in Broward and Duval counties in 2006 and later expanded to Baker, Clay and Nassau, the more rural areas just outside metropolitan Jacksonville.

The initiative aims to make Medicaid more closely resemble private health insurance, where costs are predictable because the benefits can be capped. It requires virtually all Medicaid beneficiaries who aren’t in institutions to enroll in an HMO or other managed-care network. If they don’t choose one for themselves, they’re automatically assigned to one.

House Minority Leader Dan Gelber spoke out strongly against the plan. Many of the others who opposed the bill, all Democrats, came from the Broward County area. Fort Lauderdale Rep. Perry Thurston Jr. said that should be no surprise - something he’s learned from some town hall meetings he’s attended.

During debate on Wednesday, Bradenton Rep. Bill Galvano, chair of the Committee on Healthy Families, said there had been only 40 complaints by patients about the changes in Medicaid in the counties where the program changed.

But Joe Gibbons, a Democrat from Pembroke Park said in his opinion Medicaid Reform has a bust, and questioned Galvano’s methodology.

But Galvano said it is necessary because of the intense pressure to find places to save money in the future. And the Bradenton Republican questioned those who said Medicaid Reform isn’t working, alluding to surveys taken by thousands of those patients.

Democrats weren’t completely shut out during the debate. An amendment sponsored by Miami-Dade Rep. Yolly Roberson to restore the nursing home staffing ratio from to 2.6 to 2.9 passed.

St Petersburg Democrat Rick Kriseman said if the Legislature failed to pass the amendment there would be an increase in litigation.

The House then voted for Roberson’s amendment, but also voted for the bill that would expand Medicaid Reform.

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