Florida Medicaid recipients sue state over new plan

Jan 14, 2008

Florida Medicaid recipients sue state over new plan

Miami Herald, 1/12/2008

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s Medicaid reform experiment is being challenged in court in a federal class-action lawsuit filed by three Broward County recipients who claim the state improperly traps people in unsuitable medical coverage.


Medicaid is the government’s health insurance program for the poor. Florida’s reform plan put about 200,000 recipients from Broward County and the Jacksonville area into HMO-style plans in an attempt to save money and improve care.


However, federal law allows recipients to change plans if they have ‘good cause,’ according to the lawsuit filed Friday. Materials sent to recipients didn’t fully explain that right and state-hired counselors incorrectly advised recipients that they were locked into the reformed plan for a year, the lawsuit said.


The recipients needlessly stayed with a plan that did not cover their doctors or medications, their lawyers argued. ‘The Medicaid reform program has been imposed on poor and disabled people, and they are not getting the medical care and rights the law promises them,’ said C. Shawn Boehringer, an attorney at Legal Aid Service of Broward County.


A spokesman for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which runs the state’s Medicaid program, said the agency is reviewing the lawsuit.


A recent state internal audit and analysis by Georgetown University both found problems with the reform plan. Recipients exhausted drug coverage, could not figure out if their doctors or medications were covered and could not file complaints easily. Expansion of the reform plan, which launched in 2006, is on hold until the agency studies it further.