Florida - U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Democratic U.S. House members Thursday called for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to reject a move by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to cut $98 million by trimming the length of time people have to apply for the Medicaid program.
“I rise here today because the state of Florida has again proposed to harm thousands of seniors and folks with disabilities who rely on Medicaid for their health care,” Nelson, a Democrat who faces an election challenge this year from Scott, said on the Senate floor. Nelson, along with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and 10 other Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation sent a letter to CMS Director Seema Verma urging her to reject a proposed amendment to a state Medicaid “waiver” that would exempt Florida from a federal requirement that gives people up to 90 days following a health problem to apply for Medicaid coverage.
The Scott administration proposed --- and the Republican-led Legislature agreed --- to require people to apply for Medicaid during the same month of the health event. “Retroactive eligibility is designed to protect Medicaid beneficiaries --- including seniors, pregnant women, individuals with disabilities, and parents --- and their families from the steep costs of medical services and long-term care. Importantly, this protection was also designed to minimize uncompensated care costs faced by hospitals and other healthcare providers who take care of our neighbors and are already challenged by the state’s low reimbursement rates,” the letter said.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration estimates that 39,000 people could be impacted by the change. Hospitals and nursing homes, though, say the numbers could be much higher.
The change has become a flashpoint between Democrats and Scott. “It is our duty to ensure eligible individuals have access to care without going into debt to obtain it, which is why retroactive eligibility is so vital. This proposal would not only wipe out many families’ pocketbooks, but it would also place a financial burden on health care providers, the state and indeed all Florida taxpayers through increased uncompensated care costs,” the letter said. “We fail to see how this proposal will ‘enhance fiscal predictability’ as the state claims when it will increase costs across the board.”
But Mallory McManus, a spokeswoman for the Agency for Health Care Administration, issued a statement Thursday saying it is "categorically false to assert that this change impacts the care" provided to Medicaid beneficiaries. "Florida continues to focus on quickly enrolling Florida’s most vulnerable people including children, frail elders, those with disabilities and pregnant women," the statement said. "By enrolling individuals quickly, you ensure better-coordinated fully integrated care, as well as access to preventative services."
Photo courtesy Celeste Monsour and Flickr.com.