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Governor puts Medicaid reform plan before feds

Gov. Jeb Bush met with Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson Friday to outline Medicaid reform proposals he plans to announce next week.

Bush said before the meeting the state can't afford the billion-dollar annual increases in the program. He wouldn't discuss details of his proposals.

Bush has long advocated for more flexibility on how the state can spend federal money on the health care program for the poor and disabled. It will be a priority for the Legislature in its session beginning March 8.

Medicaid uses about $15-billion of Florida's current $57.3-billion budget.

In the past, Bush has taken a leading role in trying to get governors to agree on proposed changes to the program, the cost of which is split by the state and federal governments. Those efforts, though, weren't leading anywhere, he said.

"I tried to work on a bipartisan basis to create a consensus on Medicaid reform. I've concluded that others need to try that now. I don't have the energy and patience to do that. We're going to focus on Florida," Bush said.

"The best approach is to create, basically, a mosaic of different approaches. Have states come up with their own alternatives," Bush said. "Just as welfare reform came from the states trying different things. Then a consensus was reached in Washington. The same's going to have to happen here with Medicaid."

Bush also met with White House adviser Josh Bolten before returning to Florida on his way back from Southeast Asia, where he toured areas devastated by tsunamis.