AHCA hears Medicare privatization concerns

06/16/11 Kate Bradshaw
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, has been holding hearings throughout the state this week to get public input on the statewide privatization of Medicaid. Today in Tampa, dozens packed an auditorium near USF to weigh in on the changes, which would place Medicaid patients on managed care plans. Speaker Adrian Langford has been working with Medicaid patients for years. He said moving them onto HMOS without giving the state a way to negotiate lower premiums will only hurt the patients.

More than three million Floridians are enrolled in Medicaid. These are low income seniors, families, pregnant women, children, and disabled people. Florida’s Medicaid population is the country’s fourth largest. The legislature voted to privatize Medicaid during the 2011 session with the support of the Governor to save the state money. Critics say health insurance companies are only interested in profits, and that this would greatly compromise the health care Medicaid enrollees receive. But Diane Smeltzer, Vice President of health care management services at Amerigroup, said insurance companies don’t exist solely for the bottom line. She gave an example of one patient whose life was completely changed by a good caseworker.

Smeltzer said the woman wouldn’t go to these appointments, until the caseworker got involved.

Five Florida counties currently have pilot programs that have already privatized Medicaid, thought critics say they’ve failed. Since Medicaid is in part a federal program, the AHCA permission from the feds before it can implement statewide privatization. Austin R. Curry is an advocate for seniors. He said allowing for-profit companies to manage health care for the poor goes against Medicaid’s underlying principles.

With federal approval, the Agency for Health Care Administration will be required to start implementing the new policy July First of next year. Full implementation will have to be completed by October of 2012.

To submit comments and suggestions on the the changes, write to flmedicaidmanagedcare@ahca.myflorida.com.

Submit comments by mail to:

Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Program Office of the Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Agency for Health Care Administration 2727 Mahan Drive, MS #8 Tallahassee, FL 32308

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