Saturday, June 23, 2018
Health

Florida can save millions by accepting federal Medicaid funds, state agency says

State lawmakers may have overlooked more than $430 million in yearly savings for Florida taxpayers by not accepting the federal dollars promised through the Affordable Care Act.

The savings, says the Medicaid director at Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, come from the administration's recent pledge to pay the full cost of "Medically Needy" recipients annually. These are patients with serious illnesses who cannot pay for their treatment.

Last month, when state budget analysts studied the cost-benefit of expanding Medicaid to cover 1 million low-income uninsured Floridians, they had to leave out savings from "Medically Needy" because they didn't know whether federal health officials would offer full funding for that program.

AHCA released the report this week to Health News Florida on request. In a telephone interview, Florida Medicaid director Justin Senior said he received the news about the full funding for Medically Needy on Wednesday. He declined to name the high-ranking federal official.

In the current contentious legislative health care debate, news of the savings might appear to be a game-changer. But it isn't clear whether there is time to digest the information, with just three weeks remaining in the session, or whether it will matter.

The House and Senate are currently in a standoff over whether to accept federal funding. State Sen. Joe Negron's plan, called Healthy Florida, would accept the federal funds, but use them to subsidize private coverage for more than 1 million uninsured low-income Floridians. President Barack Obama's administration has hinted that it would accept that substitution.

But the House does not want to accept the federal funds, which legislative budget analysts estimate would amount to more than $50 billion over a decade. The first three years of expanded coverage would be fully federally funded under the health law, and then the state would be expected to kick in a small percentage, peaking at 10 percent in 2020.

The savings would more than cover the first decade of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, says Amy Baker, director of the Florida Legislature's Economic & Demographic Research Office.

If AHCA and Baker are correct, it would actually cost state taxpayers less to cover 1 million uninsured low-income Floridians than it would to leave them uninsured. And it would cost a lot less than the House plan released on Thursday, which would provide coverage to many fewer people: about 115,000.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has said he doesn't trust the federal government to keep its commitment because of the need for budget cuts in Washington.

The House plan was developed by another Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes. His Florida Healthy Choices plan offered a list of reasons why Medicaid is not a good program and says those enrolled are deprived of their freedom.

So, how could so much money be saved by eliminating the necessity for "Medically Needy?" State records show Florida pays 42 percent of the cost for the program, more than $430 million a year out of state general revenue.

If Florida agreed to accept federal Medicaid expansion funds, the adults who are currently in Medically Needy would be covered by private subsidized insurance, either through Negron's plan or the federal health exchange. Children who are in the "Medically Needy" program would remain there, according to the AHCA report.

Comments
ScART program empowers people to explore their scars and express their feelings through art

ScART program empowers people to explore their scars and express their feelings through art

ST. PETERSBURGShyly, 8-year-old Annabelle Brassfield climbed atop a stool in front of a blank easel, grabbed a brush she named Scarlet and prepared to paint her scars. After three open heart surgeries for a severe congenital heart defect, she’s left ...
Published: 06/22/18
Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

By Katie WorkmanIsraeli or Mediterranean couscous are tiny balls of toasted semolina pasta that plump up when cooked into toothsome, slightly less tiny balls of pasta. They make a great base for a side or salad. You can make the couscous according to...
Published: 06/22/18
‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

ZEPHYRHILLS — The Pergolas’ Saturday morning volunteer work started like most, at a farm cleaning the property and trimming trees. Andrea Pergola, 38, stood on the driveway of the property when she heard her 15-year-old son Logan scream. At first, sh...
Published: 06/20/18
Moffitt receives $1 million donation from Richard Gonzmart

Moffitt receives $1 million donation from Richard Gonzmart

TAMPA — Runners gathered for the Gonzmart’s Father’s Day Walk and Jog where they raise money to help aid in Moffitt Cancer Center’s fight against prostate cancer. This year the event raised $110,000, but Moffitt had another surprise in store.Andrea G...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

GENEVA — Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing. In its latest revision to a disease class...
Published: 06/19/18
Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

The extensive government trial was intended to settle an age-old question about alcohol and diet: Does a daily cocktail or beer really protect against heart attacks and stroke?To find out, the National Institutes of Health gave scientists $100 millio...
Published: 06/16/18
More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults are taking prescription drugs, including hormones for contraception, blood pressure medications and medicines for heartburn, that carry a potential risk of depression, according to a study published in the Journal...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Courtney Bilyeu was running toward the murky water alongside a few military officers when it happened.She was an accountant for the U.S. Navy at the time. And on her way to take a swim with some coworkers in a California beach, she saw blood. The wat...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

The next time you head to the drugstore to buy sunscreen, don’t forget to pick up some sunglasses, too. That’s because both products work to protect your body from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.Wearing sunglasses for protection should not be re...
Published: 06/09/18
In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

ST. PETERSBURG — Kidney disease doesn’t discriminate.The crowd of more than 200 patients who gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort range in age from teenagers to seniors. They are of different ethnicities and come from all over the...
Published: 06/08/18