Staving off the worst Medicaid cuts
A key Senate budget negotiator, Durell Peaden, called it "manna from heaven." To some of Florida's poorest and sickest Medicaid clients, it might be just that. Lawmakers announced plans Wednesday to spend $300-million from a health care trust fund known as the Lawton Chiles Endowment to restore two programs known as Medically Needy and Meds AD (Aged and Disabled), which care for more than 40,000 residents. Had the programs been eliminated, those patients would have had no access to care.
The chief budget negotiators, Rep. Ray Sansom and Sen. Lisa Carlton, appeared at a midday meeting of health care budget negotiators to announce the decision. "With these dollars, we're hoping to help the poorest of the poor," Carlton said. The amount is $100-million less than Gov. Charlie Crist proposed, and the transfer is for one year only -- meaning that the patients likely will have to grovel for money again next year.
Advocates for hospitals and for Medically Needy patients praised the decision. But Mary Ellen Ross of Delray Beach, the founding director of the Florida Transplant Survivors' Coalition, bemoaned the necessity for an annual show of desperation in the state Capitol before the cuts are restored.
"Either we've been very bad teachers or the students (legislators) haven't been paying attention," Ross said.