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AARP opposes FL Medicaid waiver

AARP fired off a letter Wednesday urging the federal government to reject Florida's bid to expand its controversial Medicaid pilot.

With federal approval, a Republican-led bill passed this spring would attempt to plug budget shortfalls by expanding the five-county pilot and moving 3 million of the state's poor and disabled into private managed-care insurance plans.

“We have reiterated our concern many, many times,” said Jack McRay, advocacy manager for AARP Florida. “In essence, the lawmakers are saying 'we'll work this thing out,' and 'trust us'....even though there's no evidence that this would work.”

AARP, which advocates for Florida's 2.7 million seniors, is one of at least 100 organizations to oppose the overhaul, including the Florida Medical Association and several county medical associations.

The medically frail elderly, including those in nursing homes, would be among the first to move into managed-care plans because they cost the most.

Michael Garner, president of the Florida Association of Health Plans, said he "respectfully disagrees" with the AARP stance and believes that the overhaul will save tax dollars and give Medicaid recipients greater access to care.

"We still believe this is the right direction for the state," he said.

Opponents of the bill are concerned that it could limit access to care for recipients and increase hassles for doctors.

The AARP letter carries quite a bit of heft, said Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood.

“It's hard to know what's going to make a difference at this point, but I sure hope this is it,” she said.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokesman Brian Cook said the agency received the letter and will take it into careful consideration.

---Health News Florida is an independent online publication dedicated to public-service journalism. Reporter Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at 954-239-8968 or by e-mail.