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Safety net hospitals decry Medicaid spending cuts planned for Florida

Representatives of hospitals that invest heavily in physician training and care for the indigent held a news conference Monday to protest plans in the Legislature to slash Medicaid re-imbursement rates.

The cuts would undermine the state’s investments in training doctors, alliance members argued outside the Senate Office Building in Tallahassee.

Under the Graduate Medical Education Startup Bonus Program launched by Gov. Rick Scott two years ago, teaching hospitals draw $100,000 bonuses for every residency they add in key specialties. New residencies totaled 313 this year.

“We cannot train tomorrow’s physicians when every year our hospitals must re-evaluate their budgets,” said Lindy Kennedy, vice president for government relations for the Safety Net Hospital Alliance.

Steven Sonenreich, president and CEO of Mount Sinai Medical Center, cited a study showing that 80 percent of doctors remain in the state where they were trained.

“United States veterans wait 75 days on average to see a psychiatrist. There is a severe shortage in this state in many specialties, including the number of psychiatrists that we train,” Sonenreich said.

“Budget cuts to our institutions are felt when people are calling to make doctors appointments. It is that simple,” he said.

Training doctors without properly funding the hospitals where they would work “makes little fiscal sense,” said Leon Haley, dean of the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville.

“To do so is to effectively spend taxpayers’ money to educate other states’ doctors,” Haley said.

The pressure on hospital budgets is coming from all sides — Scott’s proposed budget would cut $929 million from in Medicaid re-imbursements, paying 58 cents for every dollar the hospitals spend, alliance members said.

The House would cut $672 million, paying 62 cents on the dollar, and the Senate would cut $309 million, paying 68 cents.

Hospitals would be forced to pass some of their losses along to privately insured patients, alliance president Tony Carvalho said. The “hidden tax” would cost $2.7 billion under the governor’s plan, $2.4 billion under the House’s, and $2.13 billion under the Senate’s.

“These costs do not evaporate … because the hospital is reimbursed less than the cost of providing that care,” Carvalho said.

Approximately 4.5 million Floridians will participate in Medicaid next year, and 2.5 million uninsured, he said.

“That’s 6.5 million people — or almost one-third of the population — that when they get sick and come to a hospital, we can expect to get paid less than cost or nothing at all,” he said.

Additionally, the state would forego $414 million in federal matching funds under the House bill, Carvalho said. The Senate would give back nearly $200 million. All while state officials complain the feds shortchange Florida in health care money.

“It seems a contradiction in terms … to be forfeiting hundreds of millions in federal money for a very small savings in the General Revenue Fund,” Carvalho said.

Finally, the cuts would disproportionately harm safety net hospitals that care for most poor and indigent patients, he said.

The alliance comprises 14 public, teaching, and children’s hospitals that provide most of the bonus residencies and almost half the state’s Medicaid and indigent care.

Poll: 45% of Florida voters would like to see increase in Medicaid funding

A new survey from the Florida Hospital Association shows strong support among Florida voters to keep — or in many increase — state funding for Medicaid programs.

The survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies from March 1 through March 5, found Floridians have the most favorable opinion of Medicaid that the association has recorded in six years. The poll of 600 registered voters found 56 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Medicaid, up from 47 percent in a November 2011 survey.

The results of the survey come as state lawmakers began releasing their initial budget recommendations, which included taking away as much as $621.8 million from hospitals in the coming year.

The House proposal cuts the state’s share of Medicaid by $238.6 million, or a total of $621.8 million once federal dollars are factored in. The Senate has recommended cutting $99.3 million, or a $258.6 million total cut.

But the Florida Hospital Association found that while the state is slashing budgets, many Floridians would actually like to see lawmakers keep funding as is, if not give the programs funding boost.

According to the survey, 45 percent of Floridians said they would like to see Medicaid funding increased, while 29 percent said they believe state funding should stay the same. Just 8 percent said funding for the programs should be decreased.

Six years ago, 47 percent of Floridians supported keeping the funding the same, while 39 percent wanted to see more money put into the program. Back in November 2011, 11 percent of Floridians supported decreasing funding for Medicaid programs.

When respondents were asked about a few specific areas the Legislature will be spending money on this year, 61 percent of Floridians said the state should increase funding for Medicaid, which provides health care to lower-income children, the disabled elderly, and pregnant women.

Voters also supported increasing funding for water quality problems (67%); the state’s colleges and universities (52%); tax cuts to help business to expand or relocate to Florida (31%); and tourism promotion (23%).

Yet when asked whether they would support redirecting money from Medicaid to help pay for increased funding for colleges and universities, tax cuts for businesses, and tourism promotion, 75 percent of voters said they would advise their legislator to keep the money in Medicaid programs.

There appeared to be broad support to keep money in Medicaid programs, with 68 percent of Republicans, 85 percent of Democrats, and 73 percent of independents saying they would advise their legislator to keep funding Medicaid.

That feeling was echoed throughout the state, with a solid majority of voters in each media market saying the Legislature keep money for Medicaid.

The highest support for keeping the cash for Medicaid came from the Jacksonville area, where 80 percent of respondents said they wanted legislators to keep money for Medicaid programs.

The Fort Myers media market — which includes Gov. Rick Scott’s hometown of Naples — had the highest percentage of people saying they should shift the funds, with 20 percent of respondents saying they would tell their lawmaker to use it for something else.

 

Joe Henderson: Psst … Tallahassee, you might want to actually listen to the people on this one

While the business of governing requires tough choices and choosing between priorities that can be conflicting, sometimes it’s best to do what the people want. After all, it’s their money that is being spent.

So, listen up, Tallahassee.

On the subject of state Medicaid funding, the people — your bosses — appear to have spoken loudly, clearly and with a you-better-not-mess-with-this message. They want it funded, and they’re not kidding.

According to a Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted for the Florida Hospital Association and shared with FloridaPolitics.comabout three-quarters of the 600 registered voters surveyed like their Medicare and Medicaid. They strongly reject shifting funds from those programs to other spending projects.

And this is most telling — of those voters who accept the state might have a budget crisis, 66 percent say Medicare and Medicaid shouldn’t be cut.

This comes as budget proposals in the House and Senate call for steep cuts in those programs.

Well, well, well!

Budget hawks in the Legislature have grumped for years about the expense of these programs, but they’re missing the point. As this poll appears to show, the people are telling legislators that this point is nonnegotiable.

Lawmakers can get away with a lot of things because voters are consumed by the act of living day to day. Most voters don’t tune into all the nuance and back-and-forth that goes on in the Legislative Session, but they’ll damn sure pay attention if their Medicaid is threatened.

While the moves by House Speaker Richard Corcoran to tighten lobbying rules and eliminate Gov. Rick Scott’s business incentives were politically shrewd and had the added benefit of being the right thing to do, I doubt voters in the Villages or anywhere else in the state discussed it at happy hour.

Health care coverage is so complicated, though, that can’t be solved with barroom chat or by taking a meat cleaver to vital programs. Sometimes, leaders just have to do what the people want.

This also isn’t something where politicians can reasonably expect people to do more with less. If lawmakers don’t yet know that, let ‘em whack the Medicaid budget. Watch what happens when their constituents can’t afford or, in some cases, even get services they were used to.

That’s what this survey was telling state leaders as they grapple with how to set and pass a budget. They better be listening.

Audrey Brown: Long-term care key to quality of life for Florida Medicaid seniors

Audrey Brown, president and CEO of Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc.

In 2011, the State of Florida elected to move long-term care (LTC) into the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program, as the escalating costs of providing care at more institutional-style settings, like nursing homes, to an aging baby boomer population was creating a looming health care crisis.

For most families, the decision to move a loved one to a nursing home or institutional setting is difficult and saddening.  Many people would prefer to be at home and not institutionalized, if at all possible; but, until the implementation of the SMMC program, the hope of transitioning out of a facility was dim and the possibility of having the necessary services to keep someone at home was slim.

The fundamental strategy to allow Florida’s health plans to coordinate long-term care for our state’s most vulnerable and frail Medicaid beneficiaries was to enhance care in institutional settings, while simultaneously reducing the reliance on nursing homes by increasing the utilization of appropriate community-based alternatives.

Since its implementation, the program has been successful, as the LTC program now works both in terms of achieving cost savings and expanding meaningful benefits.  First and foremost, this program delivers the right amount and type of care to address individuals’ needs.  Often this appropriate type of care is delivered through more cost-efficient, home-based care services, which not only offers a less-restrictive setting for those eligible, but has also resulted in more than $400 million in cost savings.

Moreover, health plans have been able to leverage their resources to offer expanded benefits, such as support to transition to the community; emergency financial assistance; dental, hearing and vision services; transportation and many more.  These expanded benefits were valued at $9.5 million in 2015 and are financed by the health plans — not taxpayers.  Further demonstrating its success, 77.4 percent of Medicaid LTC recipients recently indicated in a survey that their quality of life has improved as a result of the SMMC LTC program.

Despite these documented successes and high satisfaction rates, some have expressed interest in regressing to the old model, wherein more of Florida’s most vulnerable populations would once again remain in institutional settings, where they are often not better served, with fewer opportunities to transition to more appropriate, less restrictive settings.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) also recently took a look at the impact that regressing to the old fee-for-service model would have on the state and found that the result would be calamitous.  Noting in a bill analysis, AHCA said that this move would result in additional costs amounting to $284 million for FY 2014-2015, $432 million in FY 2015-2016 and an estimated ongoing cost avoidance of $200 million annually.

Further, to demonstrate the real-world benefits Florida’s health plans deliver to patients, including in LTC, the Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc. (FAHP) recently launched a campaign, Florida Patients Matter, which showcases a series of videos focused on health plans’ commitment to being patient-centered.  In one video, a health plan member, Carol, discusses how after being diagnosed with stage four Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, she was successfully transitioned home after being in a nursing home for three and a half years. Carol, now in remission, receives in-home care and assistance with medication, setting up doctor appointments and more from her health plan.

As Florida lawmakers discuss long-term care this session, FAHP urges them to keep the current LTC program in place, as it is truly improving the quality of life for seniors and their families.

 ___

Audrey Brown is president and CEO of Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc.

White House, in gamble, demands make-or-break health vote

Abandoning negotiations, President Donald Trump demanded a make-or-break vote on health care legislation in the House, threatening to leave “Obamacare” in place and move on to other issues if Friday’s vote fails.

The risky move, part gamble and part threat, was presented to GOP lawmakers behind closed doors Thursday night after a long and intense day that saw a planned vote on the health care bill scrapped as the legislation remained short of votes amid cascading negotiations among conservative lawmakers, moderates and others.

At the end of it the president had had enough and was ready to vote and move on, whatever the result, Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney told lawmakers.

“‘Negotiations are over, we’d like to vote tomorrow and let’s get this done for the American people.’ That was it,” Rep. Duncan Hunter of California said as he left the meeting, summarizing Mulvaney’s message to lawmakers.

“Let’s vote,” White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said as he walked out.

“For seven and a half years we have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it’s collapsing and it’s failing families, and tomorrow we’re proceeding,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said, then walked off without answering as reporters demanded to know whether the bill had the votes to pass.

The outcome of Friday’s vote was impossible to predict. Both conservative and moderate lawmakers had claimed the bill lacked votes after a long day of talks. But the White House appeared ready to gamble that the prospect of failing to repeal former President Barack Obama‘s health law, after seven years of promising to do exactly that, would force lawmakers into the “yes” column.

“It’s done tomorrow. Or ‘Obamacare’ stays,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a top Trump ally in the House.

Collins was among those predicting success Friday, but others didn’t hide their anxiety about the outcome.

Asked whether Republicans would be unified on Friday’s vote, freshman Rep Matt Gaetz of Florida said, “I sure hope so, or we’ll have the opportunity to watch a unified Democratic caucus impeach Donald Trump in two years when we lose the majority.”

Thursday’s maneuvers added up to high drama on Capitol Hill, but Friday promised even more suspense with the prospect of leadership putting a major bill on the floor uncertain about whether it would pass or fail.

The Republican legislation would halt Obama’s tax penalties against people who don’t buy coverage and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for low earners, which the Obama statute had expanded. It would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills, though generally skimpier than Obama’s statute provides. It also would allow insurers to charge older Americans more and repeal tax boosts the law imposed on high-income people and health industry companies.

The measure would also block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, another stumbling block for GOP moderates.

In a concession to the conservative House Freedom Caucus, many of whose members have withheld support, the legislation would repeal requirements for insurers to cover “essential health benefits” such as maternity care and substance abuse treatment.

The drama unfolded seven years to the day after Obama signed his landmark law, an anniversary GOP leaders meant to celebrate with a vote to undo the divisive legislation. “Obamacare” gave birth to the tea party movement and helped Republicans win and keep control of Congress and then take the White House.

Instead, as GOP leaders were forced to delay the vote Thursday, C-SPAN filled up the time playing footage of Obama signing the Affordable Care Act.

“In the final analysis, this bill falls short,” GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state said in a statement Thursday as she became the latest rank-and-file Republican, normally loyal to leadership, to declare her opposition. “The difficulties this bill would create for millions of children were left unaddressed,” she said, citing the unraveling of Medicaid.

In a danger sign for Republicans, a Quinnipiac University poll found that people disapprove of the GOP legislation by 56 percent to 17 percent, with 26 percent undecided. Trump’s handling of health care was viewed unfavorably by 6 in 10.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who as speaker was Obama’s crucial lieutenant in passing the Democratic bill in the first place, couldn’t resist a dig at the GOP disarray.

“You may be a great negotiator,” she said of Trump. “Rookie’s error for bringing this up on a day when clearly you’re not ready.”

Obama declared in a statement that “America is stronger” because of the current law and said Democrats must make sure “any changes will make our health care system better, not worse for hardworking Americans.” Trump tweeted to supporters, “Go with our plan! Call your Rep & let them know.”

Unlike Obama and Pelosi when they passed Obamacare, the Republicans had failed to build an outside constituency or coalition to support their bill. Instead, medical professionals, doctors and hospitals — major employers in some districts — as well as the AARP and other influential consumer groups were nearly unanimously opposed. So were outside conservative groups who argued the bill didn’t go far enough. The Chamber of Commerce was in favor.

Moderates were given pause by projections of 24 million Americans losing coverage in a decade and higher out-of-pocket costs for many low-income and older people, as predicted by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In an updated analysis Thursday, the CBO said late changes to the bill meant to win over reluctant lawmakers would cut beneficial deficit reduction in half, while failing to cover more people.

And, House members were mindful that the bill, even if passed by the House, faces a tough climb in the Senate.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump to Capitol in last-ditch lobbying for health care bill

President Donald Trump is rallying support for the Republican health care overhaul by taking his case directly to GOP lawmakers at the Capitol, two days before the House plans a climactic vote that poses an important early test for his presidency. Top House Republicans unveiled revisions to their bill in hopes of nailing down support.

At a rally Monday night in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump underscored what he called “the crucial House vote.”

“This is our long-awaited chance to finally get rid of Obamacare,” he said of repealing former President Barack Obama‘s landmark law, a GOP goal since its 2010 enactment. “We’re going to do it.”

 Trump’s closed-door meeting with House Republicans was coming as party leaders released 43 pages worth of changes to a bill whose prospects remain dicey. Their proposals were largely aimed at addressing dissent that their measure would leave many older people with higher costs.

Included was an unusual approach: language paving the way for the Senate, if it chooses, to make the bill’s tax credit more generous for people age 50-64. Details in the documents released were initially unclear, but one GOP lawmaker and an aide said the plan sets aside $85 billion over 10 years for that purpose.

The leaders’ proposals would accelerate the repeal of tax increases Obama imposed on higher earners, the medical industry and others to this year instead of 2018. It would be easier for some people to deduct medical expenses from their taxes.

Older and disabled Medicaid beneficiaries would get larger benefits. But it would also curb future growth of the overall Medicaid program, which helps low earners afford medical coverage, and let states impose work requirements on some recipients. Additional states could not join the 31 that opted to expand Medicaid to more beneficiaries under Obama’s law, the Affordable Care Act.

In a bid to cement support from upstate New Yorkers, the revisions would also stop that state from passing on over $2 billion a year in Medicaid costs to counties. The change was pushed by Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., one of Trump’s first congressional supporters. Local officials have complained the practice overburdens their budgets.

Republican support teetered last week when a nonpartisan congressional analysis projected the measure would strip 24 million people of coverage in a decade. The Congressional Budget Office also said the bill would cause huge out-of-pocket increases for many lower earners and people aged 50 to 64.

Democrats have opposed the GOP repeal effort. They tout Obama’s expansion of coverage to 20 million additional people and consumer-friendly coverage requirements it imposed on insurers, including abolishing annual and lifetime coverage limits and forcing them to insure seriously ill people.

The GOP bill would dismantle Obama’s requirements that most people buy policies and that larger companies cover workers. Federal subsidies based largely on peoples’ incomes and insurance premiums would end, and a Medicaid expansion to 11 million more low-income people would disappear.

The Republican legislation would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills based chiefly on age, and open-ended federal payments to help states cover Medicaid costs would be cut. Insurers could charge older consumers five times the premiums they charge younger people instead of Obama’s 3-1 limit, and would boost premiums 30 percent for those who let coverage lapse.

House approval would give the legislation much-needed momentum as it moves to the Senate, which Republicans control 52-48 but where five Republicans have expressed opposition. Trump used Monday’s trip to single out perhaps the measure’s most vociferous foe — Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul.

“He’s a good guy,” Trump said of one 2016 rival for the GOP presidential nomination. “And I look forward to working with him so we can get this bill passed, in some form, so that we can pass massive tax reform, which we can’t do till this happens.”

Enactment of the health care bill would clear the way for Congress to move to revamping the tax code and other GOP priorities. Defeat would wound Trump two months into his administration and raise questions about his ability to win support from his own party moving forward.

Among the disgruntled were GOP lawmakers in the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, though the strength of their opposition was unclear. The group has seemed to have around 40 members, but that number may be lower now and some have expressed support or an open mind for the bill.

Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., an outspoken opponent, said the group was not taking a formal position on the measure. That could indicate that a significant fraction of its members were not willing to vow “no” votes.

Meadows said he believes the House will reject the bill without major changes.

___

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press

Puerto Rico governor asks Rick Scott for help addressing health care crisis

The governor of Puerto Rico has asked Gov. Rick Scott for his help in addressing the nation’s healthcare crisis.

In a letter to Scott dated March 17, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said his administration is working hard to stabilize the current fiscal fiscal and economic crisis and to “put the island back on a path of fiscal responsibility and economic growth.” However, he said the so-called Medicaid cliff that will come into effect before the end of 2017 threatens to derail Puerto Rico’s fiscal and economic efforts.

“This could lead to a full-blown collapse of our healthcare system,” he wrote. “Moreover, if this issue is not addressed by Congress in the very near future the fallout will be felt not only in Puerto Rico but also in the states, because the already high rate of migration of the U.S. citizens moving from Puerto Rico to the states will likely increase significantly, affecting Florida in particular.”

More than 440,000 residents of Puerto Rico have moved stateside between 2006 and 2015, driven mostly by better economic opportunities. The loss in population, he wrote to Scott, is “devastating because it decreases our tax base, erodes our consumer base, and diminishes our workforce, which all make our economic recovery more difficult.”

Rossello said he developed a fiscal plan approved by the Financial Oversight and Management Board, created under PROMESA, that reduces spending and spurs economic growth. But federal legislators need to address the Medicaid cliff and “ensure the success of these reforms.”

He asked for Scott’s help in “activating Florida’s congressional delegation as a voice of reason in Congress on this avoidable issue.”

“We are willing to do our part to provide greater accountability, increased spending controls, and prosecute any fraud, waste and abuse tied to federal healthcare dollars,” he wrote. “However, Congress must find a way to include Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico at current levels until ACA replacement comes into effect and must also help Puerto Rico obtain more equitable and fiscally sustainable federal healthcare funding going forward.”

House GOP health bill facing fresh House committee test

The White House and Republican leaders are talking to rank-and-file lawmakers about revising the GOP health care overhaul, hoping to keep a rebellion by conservatives and moderates from snowballing and imperiling the party’s showpiece legislation.

Four days after a congressional report projected the bill would pry coverage from millions of voters, signs of fraying GOP support for the legislation were showing. The measure would strike down much of former President Barack Obama‘s 2010 overhaul and reduce the federal role, including financing, for health care consumers and is opposed uniformly by Democrats.

In a fresh test of Republicans’ willingness to embrace the legislation, the House Budget Committee was considering the measure Thursday. Republicans expressed confidence the bill would be approved, but the vote could be tight. The panel can’t make significant changes but was expected to endorse non-binding, suggested changes to nail down votes.

The bill would eliminate the tax penalty that pressures people to buy coverage and the federal subsidies that let millions afford it, replacing them with tax credits that are bigger for older people. It would cut Medicaid, repeal the law’s tax increases on higher earning Americans and require 30 percent higher premiums for consumers who let coverage lapse.

Overt GOP opposition grew after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected Monday that the legislation would push 24 million Americans off coverage in a decade and shift out-of-pocket costs toward lower income, older people. Obama’s law has provided coverage to around 20 million additional people

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Wednesday that leaders could now make “some necessary improvements and refinements” to the legislation. But he declined to commit to bringing the measure to the House floor next week, a schedule Republican leaders have repeatedly said they intended to keep.

At a late rally in Nashville Wednesday, President Donald Trump said: “We’re going to arbitrate, we’re all going to get together, we’re going to get something done.”

Vice President Mike Pence met with House GOP lawmakers and pressed them to unite behind the legislation.

“‘It’s our job to get it out of here and get it to the Senate,'” Pence told Republicans, according to Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla. That would let Trump pressure “Democrats in these red states to come on board,'” Ross said, referring to Republican-leaning states where Democratic senators face re-election next year.

But insurgents still abound.

Conservatives want to end Obama’s expansion of Medicaid to 11 million additional low-income people next year, not 2020 as the bill proposes. They say a GOP proposed tax credit to help people pay medical costs is too generous, and they want to terminate all of Obama’s insurance requirements, including mandatory coverage of specified services like drug counseling.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus, continued pushing for changes. He claimed at least 21 members of his group would oppose the measure as written; the bill would fail if 22 Republicans join all Democrats in opposing it.

But underscoring the push-pull problem GOP leaders face in winning votes, moderates feel the tax credits are too stingy, especially for low earners and older people. They oppose accelerating the phase-out of the Medicaid expansion and are unhappy with long-term cuts the measure would inflict on the entire program.

Terminating the Medicaid expansion in 2020 and not 2018 “is sacrosanct to me,” said moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J.

In a new complication, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the measure lacked the votes to pass in the Senate, where Republicans hold a precarious 52-48 majority. That left House members angry over being asked to take a politically risky vote for legislation likely to be altered.

Moderates “don’t like the idea of taking a vote in the House that may go nowhere in the Senate,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.

Amid the maneuvering, a federal report said more than 12 million people have signed up for coverage this year under the very statute that Republicans want to repeal. That figure underscored the potential political impact of the GOP’s next move.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Heartwarming video shows Medicaid giving hope to Florida’s most vulnerable children

Health care through Medicaid, particularly for Florida’s most vulnerable citizens — children, the elderly and low-income families — is not an abstract. It is a real need, for real people, and without it, can lead to real suffering.

A new video shows how the state’s Medicaid program is keeping one Plant City boy alive. It is not just money for lawmakers to spend arbitrarily; it is care for actual people, often those who need it most.

The video is from the Florida Hospital Association, illustrating just what is at stake when lawmakers proposed drastic cuts in the state’s Medicaid program.

The 90-second clip is one of a series in the FHA’s “Some Cuts Won’t Heal” campaign, which features families and caregivers from across the state who rely on Medicaid to care for loved ones.

Launching statewide Monday, the digital campaign features the story of Lakota Lockhart, a 7-year-old Plant City boy who has received lifesaving services through Medicaid. Lakota was diagnosed with Central Hypoventilation Syndrome, where the boy literally forgets to breathe at night.

In the video, Dr. Daniel Plasencia, medical director of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, explains that “almost 90 percent of children” he treats at the clinic are on Medicaid.

Without that secondary Medicaid coverage, Lakota’s mother Krystal says, the family would have faced a tragic situation, with only a minimal 30 days of nursing care; not nearly enough to treat Lakota’s chronic condition.

“Cutting funding to care for sick children, the elderly, and disabled isn’t about numbers — it’s about kids like Lakota,” says the campaign’s website, which points out that Medicaid cuts will lead to a host of problems — reduced access to services, longer emergency room waits and widespread uncompensated care.

In a heartwarming way, “Some Cuts” puts a human face on the consequences of cutbacks in the Medicaid program, leaving Florida children, pregnant women, low-income families, the elderly and the disabled without access to critical health care services.

Lakota’s video, as well as those from other caregivers, patients, families, and advocates, can be seen on cutswontheal.com.

Magic Johnson visits Tallahassee to talk up Medicaid managed care

Magic Johnson visited with Senate Democrats Monday to praise Medicaid managed care programs that are using town hall meetings and church outreach to steer HIV, dental, geriatric, and other health care to poor people in 60 Florida counties.

The programs have served 9,500 people with HIV during the past four years, Johnson said.

Moreover, “our providers and our doctors look like the patients they serve. That’s very important, because they can serve them better, understand their needs,” Johnson said, providing “the best health care they’ve ever received.”

Johnson, who recently rejoined the Los Angeles Lakers as president for basketball operations, later dropped in on Senate President Joe Negron, and was scheduled to meet with Senate Republicans later in the day.

He and Negron talked about health care and baseball — Johnson is a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Negron is a notorious Atlanta Braves fan.

Lourdes Rivas, president and CEO of Simply Health Care and Amerigroup Florida, which are administering the managed care program under a contract with the state, said Florida has greatly improved access to dental care — now covering nearly half of its residents, up from a low of 28 percent.

The contract is up for renewal, Rivas said.

Johnson, a “brand ambassador” for the programs, said the importance of dental care cannot be understated. He referred to reports that a child in Washington, D.C., died of a dental abscess.

“We’ve been doing a lot of great things. I just hope that all of you are proud of the work that we’ve been doing. If we are awarded this contract again, we look forward to partnering with all of you and try to do more,” Johnson said.

Caucus members expressed skepticism of GOP plans to block grant Medicaid and cut funding for health care programs, including HIV research.

Sen. Kevin Rader suggested that when Johnson met with Senate Republicans later in the day, he tell them: “Please put it back in.”

Johnson offered no comment on the Republican plans, beyond observing that he has worked with the University of Miami on HIV issues.

There was a lot of picture taking. Lauren Book introduced Johnson to her new twins. Sen. Randolph Bracy produced a basketball for Johnson to sign.

“I told him I wanted to get a game of one-on-one,” said Bracy, who played basketball at the College William & Mary.

“We won’t have enough time today,” Johnson joked.

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