State to hear from public on Medicaid plan

Jun 7, 2011

The following article was posted to West Orlando News online on June 7, 2011:

State to hear from Public on Medicaid Plan

With public hearings starting Friday on Florida’s new Medicaid overhaul, a physician who serves on a state advisory panel questioned Tuesday whether the plan would attract doctors.

Tallahassee physician Richard Thacker told the state Medical Care Advisory Committee that the plan to shift almost all Medicaid beneficiaries into managed care will add a “middleman” into the system. With lawmakers counting on cost savings, he said he fears that will lead to lower payments to health providers or the program serving fewer people.

“We can’t implement a program if we don’t have providers to provide care,” said Thacker, a representative of the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association.

Many physicians — particularly specialists — have long complained about low Medicaid reimbursement rates under the current system. That has led many not to participate in the program.

Roberta Bradford, deputy secretary for Medicaid at the state Agency for Health Care Administration, said the agency will try to make sure HMOs and other types of managed-care plans in the new system have adequate networks of providers.

Also, lawmakers included a provision in the overhaul to try to spur managed-care plans to pay Medicaid physician rates that are at least equal to Medicare rates. Doctors often get paid substantially more to care for Medicare patients.

Physician Catherine Moffitt, who represents the Florida Association of Health Plans on the advisory council, said the overhaul is not designed to gain savings by reducing payments to providers. Instead, she said, savings will come through steps such as reducing unneeded services.

“That is, I think, the concept the Legislature is banking on,” Moffitt said.

The Medical Care Advisory Committee, which includes representatives of various groups, meets periodically to discuss Medicaid issues.

The meeting came three days before AHCA starts a series of hearings across the state to take public input about the Medicaid overhaul, which lawmakers approved last month. The first hearing will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at AHCA’s headquarters in Tallahassee.

AHCA must hold the hearings before seeking federal approval for the overhaul. The Legislature set an Aug. 1 deadline for submitting a proposal to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The agency plans to contract with a consultant by the end of June to help with the Medicaid overhaul. Lawmakers set aside $2 million in the 2011-12 budget to pay for the consultant.

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