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Medicaid transformation starts today

Supporters say the plan would improve patient care and hold down costs. Opponents fear it could be a disaster for poor Floridians.

But when state House members approve two bills today, they will take the first major step toward transforming Medicaid into a managed-care system.

The bills have been a long time coming --- and still have a long way to go. The House and Senate will have to agree on a final plan in the coming weeks and, ultimately, get federal approval.

That doesn't diminish, however, the scale of what lawmakers are trying to do. Over five years, the House bills would shift hundreds of thousands of poor, elderly and disabled people into HMOs and other types of managed-care programs.

The transformation also would have big-money stakes for most parts of Florida's health-care industry. Hospitals, doctors and nursing homes --- among others --- are closely watching to see how the changes would affect them.

The House goes into session at 3 p.m. The Florida Channel will carry the session online.

Meanwhile, research will be released next week about a managed-care pilot program and how federal health reform will affect the Medicaid program. Health News Florida's Brittany Davis gives a preview.