Consumer advocates urge feds to deny statewide Medicaid privatization
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07/19/11 Kate Bradshaw
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, has less than two weeks to apply for a waiver that would let it privatize health care for all low income Floridians. Some consumer Advocates are outraged at the new system.

That’s Laura Goodhue, Executive Director of Florida Community Health Action Information Network, or CHAIN. That group was one of more than one hundred organizations that signed a letter to the federal government urging them to deny the Medicaid waiver. Since Medicaid is both a state and federal program, the feds have to sign off on such sweeping changes to the system. Goodhue said a pretty broad range of stakeholders added their signatures to the letter.

The changes, which the state legislature passed during session, would effectively privatize a program that gives low income Floridians access to health care at little or no cost. Most would be placed in private HMOs. Goodhue said placing the poor on private health care plans will inevitably hurt those who are already struggling.

She said seniors will be the first to see any impact on their health care coverage.

Five Florida counties are already implementing a privatized Medicaid system. These are Broward, Duval, Blake, Clay, and Nassau Counties. Goodhue said these pilot programs aren’t working too well.

Advocates of the Republican-backed changes, which passed the state legislature along party lines, say the new system will help state Medicaid dollars go further. Some private insurers say moving all Medicaid patients into plans managed by for-profit companies would in no way compromise the quality of their care.

WMNF reached out to several proponents of the Medicaid privatization for this story, including state legislators who supported the measure, the Tampa Tea Party, and a private insurance company. None returned requests for interviews by airtime. AHCA has until August First to submit its request for a waiver.

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