Incoming Florida Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson sent a letter Monday to the federal government accusing Gov. Rick Scott’s administration of falsifying the record to show support for a $98 million Medicaid reduction and asked for a “thorough review” of the proposed cut, which would impact an estimated 39,000 people.
“I felt compelled to ensure (the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) has no misunderstanding as to opposition on this ill-advised move targeting seniors and families facing catastrophic health care emergencies,” Gibson, D-Jacksonville, wrote to CMS Administrator Seema Verma.
Florida is asking the federal government to approve limiting the length of time people have to qualify for the Medicaid program.
The issue is known as Medicaid retroactive eligibility.
Federal law has long required states to give people 90 days to apply for the program following a health issue. At the behest of the Scott administration, the Legislature during the 2018 session approved requiring adults who aren’t pregnant to apply for the Medicaid program the month they required the health services. Florida submitted the request to the federal government last month.
State Medicaid Director Beth Kidder sent a letter to CMS Project Officer Vanessa Khoo last month accompanying the request, saying she was not “not aware of any concern or opposition raised by any member of either party regarding this provision during extensive budget debate.”
Kidder also went on to say that the $98 million reduction “cannot accurately be described as a cut.”
In her letter Monday to Veema, though, Gibson noted that several Democrats flagged the $98 million cut while raising questions on the Senate floor about who would be impacted and what would happen to them.
“AHCA’s proposal to cut off an entire population of powerless citizens and their families in the midst of a catastrophic medical emergency lacks innovation for improving outcomes and ultimately may push more costs to largely safety net hospitals who already bear a tremendous cost burden, particularly in light of rejection of Medicaid expansion in Florida,” Gibson wrote in her letter.
This is not the first time the agency’s correspondence regarding the change has come under fire. In a March 2017 letter to the federal government, state Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior said reducing Medicaid retroactive eligibility could save as much as $500 million annually.
But that figure was reduced to $98 million months later. AHCA said the $500 million estimate included health care costs for pregnant women and children and that the $98 million figure was only for non-pregnant adults.
Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families who has extensively studied Florida’s Medicaid program said the explanation can’t be right. That’s because children account for only 20 percent of total spending in the program.