TALLAHASSEE -- HMOs and large health care networks are close to managing nearly all of Florida’s $22 billion Medicaid program under an overhaul plan that surfaced in the final days of the lawmaking session.
The Medicaid reform plan, released and debated late Thursday after weeks of secret talks between House and Senate leaders, would require managed-care companies to share profits, ban illegal immigrants from receiving benefits and give recipients the option of using a voucher to purchase private health insurance.
Sen. Joe Negron, the Republican sponsor from Stuart, said managed-care would save money, improve care and transform Florida into a dynamic health care market.
“With $22 billion up in the air, we’ll have plenty of people coming to do business in Florida,” Negron said, noting that HMOs that try to leave the state would be fined and blocked from doing business in Florida.
In all, the Medicaid proposal would affect 3 million Floridians and puts the state in position for the eventual changes that the federal government will require under Medicaid rules. The program could eventually serve one in four Floridians.
The federal government, which underwrites more than half of Medicaid’s costs, would have the ultimate say on any changes Florida seeks. If approved, the Medicaid reform program would start up in July 2012.
For the first time ever, nursing-home recipients and all other elderly Medicaid recipients would be under managed-care companies. Developmentally disabled Medicaid recipients would also be under managed care in five years.
Also for the first time, people who sue Medicaid doctors and hospitals would have their pain-and-suffering awards dramatically limited to $300,000 per case -- far less than conventional medical-malpractice awards.