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Every day, hundreds of sick and injured patients walk into free and charitable clinics around the Tampa Bay area in need of a doctor.Many are suffering from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some patients were referred to the clinics by staff at hospitals where they landed after years of neglecting to care for treatable conditions.The clinics allow the patients to pay what they can, or nothing at all. They are staffed by doctors and nurses who volunteer their time. They survive off donations and small grants.Many of the patients have jobs but they are living paycheck to paycheck. None have health insurance, either because they do not qualify for Medicaid or can’t afford private coverage. For these patients, the clinics are often their only option for primary care.

Mental Health Providers Wait For Medicaid Answers

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

Florida is moving ahead with new Medicaid managed-care contracts, but mental-health providers continue to await publication of details about how services need to be delivered.

At a meeting Wednesday in Jacksonville, the Agency for Health Care Administration told members of a statewide managed-care behavioral health panel that new policies won’t be published until fall. The policies will replace existing Medicaid handbooks, which are prescriptive and lay out requirements for the program.

Mark Fontaine, executive director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association and a member of the panel, only half-jokingly asked AHCA staff a follow-up question, “of what year?”

Another panel member, Lee Wein, director of quality management for Henderson Behavioral Health, expressed frustration after hearing the information won’t be published until fall, saying, “we have no ideas what the new policies will look like.”

The state this year rebid contracts for the Medicaid managed-care program and has signed contracts with 13 different companies to provide traditional acute health-care services, long-term care services and care for people with mental illness and HIV and AIDS.

The Agency for Health Care Administration is transitioning Medicaid patients in the southeast part of the state from old managed-care plans to new plans Dec. 1. AHCA will send Medicaid patients notices about the transition Oct. 18. AHCA is moving ahead despite litigation over the contracts in state administrative cases and Leon County circuit court.