Governor Proposes Medicaid Reforms

Gov. Jeb Bush has proposed turning the state’s Medicaid program upside down in an effort to stop spiraling costs. Bush is proposing switching a state administered benefits program to a private sector insurance program with the state paying the premiums.

The change is a long way from reality, but it is already raising serious questions.

One of every four dollars the state spends goes to medical care for the poor. Medicaid serves 2.2 million Floridians. Costs are rising at the rate of 13 percent a year. That’s something the governor says the state can not sustain.

"It is double on average, at least double on a compounded basis doubled the growth of our revenues."

Instead of the current system of controlling payments to doctors, the governor’s plan would offer patients choices of various insurance policies paid for by the state. Bush isn’t sure if patients will have to pay more out of pocket.

Health care advocates like Karen Woodall say they are willing to listen, but they doubt turning coverage over to profit making companies will result in better care.

"The indication is that the private health care market is not working very well right now, so to hold it up as a model to shift everything into is a concern."

The governor’s proposed reforms are going after the low hanging fruit in the Medicaid program, the medically needed or pregnant women with children. It does nothing for long term care.

Bush hopes to have the first steps of change in place this coming summer.

The governor cannot make these changes on his own. He’ll need approval from the Florida Legislature and the federal government.