Thursday, February 17, 2011

Florida considering withdrawal from federal Medicaid program

For most states, Medicaid is the most crippling financial burden that they face. What if the states could tell the feds to keep their money and still run a program less expensively? The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville reports that State Senator Joe Negron (R-Stuart) is suggesting just that:

The statement by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, underscored how serious members of the Senate say they are about reining in costs of the program, which provides health-care for low-income patients. Medicaid is expected to cost the state more than $22 billion in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

While Negron shied away from the phrase "opt out," he was apparently referring to a provision of the federal law that allows states to leave the program altogether.

"If the federal government elects not to allow us to manage the program the way we believe is in Florida's best interests, then we'll operate our Medicaid program with our resources," Negron said.

If the state were to leave the Medicaid program, it would lose all federal funding, which covers more than half of the current system's bills. Negron said the state would use its own portion of projected Medicaid spending to provide what benefits it could, giving priority to "those on Medicaid that we believe are the most vulnerable and need the most assistance from us."

Negron stressed that he believes it was unlikely that the federal government would reject a waiver to institute the new plan. But he said the bill set to be rolled out Thursday would contain provisions that would limit the program to the what the state could fund if the federal government said no.

"We can't allow the federal government to commandeer our budget," he said.

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