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Expand the Struggling Medicaid Reform Experiment?

December 8, 2008

At a time when the state is cutting overall budgets for health care spending, the Agency for Health Care Administration has asked for nearly $7 million to expand the Medicaid reform experiment to 20 more counties. The program promised to save money, provide better care and increase choices for the Medicaid families.

According to Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network), the Medicaid Reform Pilot Program has not delivered on those promises.

"We don't really think that's a responsible investment of taxpayer dollars. Let's show some actual proof that this is saving money, and that people are getting healthier."

Goodhue argues the program not only has failed to solve existing problems, but has created some new ones.

"The consumers themselves are having a difficult time accessing services, the providers are having trouble providing the services and even just getting reimbursed is a huge bureaucratic struggle for the providers."

Goodhue believes the reform compromises Medicaid. Providers are dropping out, HMOs are threatening to pull out, and services are being cut to the state's most vulnerable citizens.

"These are children, and these are elderly disabled people who depend on Medicaid. If we don't fund services, that will just end up as uncompensated care, which just drives up the health insurance premiums for everyone."

Goodhue explains Medicaid currently serves over 2 million Floridians. She says one in four children in the state is on Medicaid, and predicts that number will grow with the economic downturn.

Gov. Jeb Bush recently endorsed expanding the Medicaid reform program, saying it's the only way to sustain the program in the face of skyrocketing costs.

Gina Presson/Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL