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2013 Brings Big Changes in FL Health Care

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Associated Press
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

This is the year that Florida will tackle a raft of controversial and difficult health programs, from the privatization of Medicaid to a debate over how to carry out the Affordable Care Act.

As Jim Saunders reports for News Service of Florida, the state expects to receive permission in February to place virtually all Medicaid patients in private HMOs and other managed-care plans.  The program change will affect not just indigent children and pregnant women -- many of whom are already enrolled in managed-care plans -- but also two less manageable groups:  fragile seniors who are in nursing homes or need skilled care to stay out of them; and adults who have severe mental illness or substance abuse problems.

Corporations are already lining up to take on the challenge, but meanwhile the contracting and enrollment can't begin until the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gives its permission.  Florida Medicaid Director Justin Senior has said he expects that permission to come through in February, Saunders reports.

At the same time, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature face a time crunch in deciding whether to implement two big parts of the Affordable Care Act: expansion of the Medicaid program to cover more of the state's uninsured; and creation of a health insurance "exchange," an online shopping service for those who don't have employer-provided coverage.

The exchange must be in operation by October. The deadline for states that want to create their own exchange has already passed, so Florida's only decision is whether to play some kind of role in developing it or let federal officials handle it alone.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press focuses on Scott in its national roundup of Republican governors who opposed what they called "ObamaCare" and now have to decide how to deal with it. Some states are taking a more active role than Florida has so far.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.