As the agency heads responsible for administrating Florida’s $38 billion Medicaid program, being good stewards of taxpayer dollars isn’t just a tagline. It is a role we take seriously.
We think the Biden administration is more interested in inflating the Medicaid rolls than fiscal responsibility. At the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government mandated continuous Medicaid coverage requirements, which prohibited states from disenrolling individuals in Medicaid even if they were no longer eligible or no longer needed the coverage.
Responsible people thought those continuous coverage requirements would be short-lived. It was inconceivable that the federal government would take three years to lift this mandate and spend billions of taxpayer dollars on enrollees with jobs and employee-sponsored health care. Not until Congress intervened in December 2022 were states allowed to resume normal business operations in managing their Medicaid programs. In the meantime, our Medicaid rolls skyrocketed from 3.8 million to more than 5.7 million recipients — a 50% increase that was costing taxpayers billions each month.
Thanks to Florida’s thriving economy and a low unemployment rate of 2.7% under Gov. Ron DeSantis, we knew many in the Medicaid rolls no longer met eligibility requirements. Naturally, we were frustrated to watch taxpayer dollars inflate the Medicaid rolls month after month with enrollees who no longer needed to be in an entitlement program. When Congress intervened in late 2022, Florida moved quickly to begin the process of right-sizing our Medicaid program. Indeed, Florida’s plan was one of only six in the country that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) approved without modification — a fact the mainstream media has ignored. As part of our CMS-approved plan, we notified recipients of a return to normal operations at the earliest possible time.
The media has focused on the relatively small number of individuals disenrolled due to “procedural” reasons. They imply — incorrectly — that individuals are being disenrolled due to bureaucratic red tape. When someone is disenrolled for procedural reasons, it is because they failed to respond to our initial request for information or our follow-up requests for supporting documentation. What the media doesn’t tell you is that we make up to 13 contact attempts to get the information we need.
We also have ample safeguards in place for families. Among other things, we prioritize alternative health coverage for every child in Florida. Some may be eligible for low-cost options through the Florida Healthy Kids program, which receives direct referrals and provides outreach to families who no longer meet the Medicaid eligibility requirements. Many of these plans are as low as $20 a month per child.
Despite the flawed media narrative, we are proud of what we are doing in Florida. We have set a strong example for how to conduct redetermination successfully in a large, prosperous state and we will continue to do so in this and many other areas.
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Shevaun Harris is the secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families, a role she has held since February 2021. Jason Weida is the secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, a role he has held since January 2023.