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Florida Health Care Providers Roll Out PR Campaign

February 10, 2011 - 6:00pm

As the state Legislature considers comprehensive Medicaid reform and Gov. Rick Scott recommends Medicaid recipients join managed-care plans in his budget, health care companies in Florida announced Friday the release of a new website and videos designed to show the public and the Legislature the positive impact of their health plans.

Health-care company executives unveiled the Knowledge is Key marketing campaign, and said their industry has gotten a bad rap in recent decades, but are hoping to sway citizens with a series of videos showing patients, providers and doctors involved in their plans.

Patients are always going to be our main focus, theyre the main focus of our health care every day. In these videos youre going to see how were working with patients, working with providers, working with others to make sure the best access to care is provided, said Michael Garner, president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans.

Due to the difficulty in wading through the layers of bureaucracy involved in getting care for Medicaid recipients and patients in fee-for-service plans, managed-care providers say their plans offer greater access and higher quality health care.

For health plans it's all about providing real solutions to Floridians who in many cases just need a little assistance in terms of navigating through an often complex health-care delivery system, and thats what we do, said Bill McHugh, chairman of FAHP and CEO of Amerigroup Florida.

Medicaid reform is one of the Legislatures top priorities in the upcoming session, and early talks about placing those eligible for Medicaid into managed-care plans got a boost this week when Gov. Scott proposed such a plan in his budget recommendations.

A comprehensive bill dealing with Medicaid reform is yet to be filed this year, but during a budget hearing this week with Scotts aides, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations, suggested that greater cuts in Medicaid could be found to offset education cuts in the governors budget proposal.

But Garner noted that managed health plans are also about greater access to commercial markets, not just Medicaid customers.

We know that employers in the state of Florida want to make sure that they can try to offer health care to their employees, and consistently the No. 1 issue of access is cost. So what we want to do is work with our employer clients to try and attack the primary cost drivers that are in the system to reduce cost all across the board, and one of the ways we do that is through our managed networks, Garner said.

But Jose Gonzalez, vice president of governmental affairs for Associated Industries of Florida, a business advocacy group that is backing the marketing campaign, said that the expansion of managed-care plans by employers is largely contingent on the unemployment rate.

If the economy comes back, employers are going to want to compete to hire the best workers and offer the best benefits, Gonzalez said, noting that the vast majority of AIFs 10,000 members in Florida offer managed-care health benefits to employees.

The Knowledge is Key marketing campaign may be about educating policymakers and the public at large, but its clear that health-care executives are touting their business model as a way to provide more effective, less expensive, free-market care than is currently being provided in Medicaid.

Its really important for us to make sure that the policymakers understand that you have fee-for-service, which is more expensive with very little value ... and you have an organized delivery system which costs less and yields much more quality, much greater access to care, McHugh said.

Reach Gray Rohrer at or at (850) 727-0859.

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