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Politics

House Passes Medicaid Reform

April 18, 2010 - 6:00pm


While the number of Medicaid enrollees and their costs continue to grow, the House passed an attempt to reform the program Monday after a week of bipartisan work to amend the bill. The House passed Medicaid reform 80-34.

The legislation sets up a managed-care program for Medicaid enrollees in Florida. Breaking the state into six regions, it allows participants to select from up to 10 different plans.

Republicans and Democrats in the House have amended the measure over the last two weeks, and they continued to iron the bill out on Monday.

Denise Grimsley, a Lake Placid Republican and chief floor manager of the bill, took amendments from Democrat Charles Chestnut of Gainesville, Democrat Mia Jones of Jacksonville, and Ed Homan, R-Tampa, who was critical of the measure when it first emerged.

Weve had 27 Democratic amendments, and youd be hard pressed to find more bipartisanship than that, said incoming Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park.

Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, led the opposition to the bill, focusing on process and stressing the measure went through the House on an accelerated pace.

This is not deliberative, democratic government, said Elaine Schwartz, a Hollywood Democrat, who added that she hoped the governor would veto the measure.

Democrats continued to debate on procedure, with Miami's Yolly Roberson and incoming Minority Leader Ron Saunders of Key West attacking the Republicans for not bringing the bill to any of the health-care committees.

Saunders taunted Republicans, saying the Medicaid reform had a forced mandate -- one of the chief reasons for Attorney General Bill McCollum suing the federal government over health care. Saunders also said that process was one of the chief reasons why Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a teacher performance pay reform measure last week.

Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, fired back at critics, saying the measure had been studied in depth. Kreegel praised Democrats for amending the bill to improve it.

With the number of Medicaid enrollees looking to increase dramatically due to the new federal health-care laws, leaders in both parties were concerned with how Medicaid will continue to impact the states budget.

The program continued to grow more rapidly than other parts of the budget, said Michael Garner, president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans, on Monday.

In 2000 fiscal year, Medicaid costs totaled 18 percent of the state budget. By the 2010 fiscal year, the costs came to 28 percent of the budget. By 2015, it is estimated that 33 percent of the state budget will go to Medicaid.

With more Medicaid enrollees on the horizon, Garner said, Any delay, even till next year, is problematic. He added, There is no question the growth is going to happen.

Garner said the Medicaid reform measures in both chambers of the Legislature were to be commended for their focus on continuity of care, giving enrollees a choice of plans and the programs commitment to customer service.

With less than two weeks to go in the session, the Senate and the House will still have to reconcile their bills in conference.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or (850) 727-0859.

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