April 23, 2019

As Medicaid Expands Elsewhere, Florida Lawmakers Seek to Shrink it [Tampa Bay Times]

This post was last updated on September 10, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.
On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times writes:

“While the rest of the country talks about or acts on expanding Medicaid coverage, it’s still off the table in Florida. In fact, Florida legislators are moving in the opposite direction.

Both the House and the Senate are expected to agree on at least one issue: extending a policy change that would shorten how long patients can retroactively have bills covered after applying for Medicaid.

The change — which would reduce the state Agency for Health Care Administration’s budget for Medicaid coverage by $104 million, including federal funds — would restrict how long patients can have Medicaid cover their bills to at most the calendar month before their application date. The prior policy allowed patients to have the program cover healthcare costs up to three months before the date they applied for coverage, though the change only affects seniors and those with disabilities. Pregnant women and children are exempted.

Though the Legislature initially voted to shorten the window in 2018, the policy went into effect in February after the federal government approved the change last November. The policy requires the Legislature to approve the change again for it to remain in effect going into July.

The House has moved to shorten that period permanently, while the Senate, in an effort to appease concerned advocates, has advanced measures that would either extend the policy for another year or match the House’s permanent change.

Agency for Health Care Administration officials, including its new leader Mary Mayhew, have cast the change as an incentive for people to sign up for the program sooner.

But advocates, including Anne Swerlick of the Florida Policy Institute [emphasis added], have contended that sentiment ‘ignores the reality of Florida’s Medicaid program.’

Under the new rules, Swerlick told a committee last month, someone who qualifies to be covered by Medicaid on the last day of the month, such as in the case of a catastrophic injury, would only be allowed to have costs retroactively covered for the calendar month in which they apply. If they applied even a day afterward, ‘those thousands of dollars of emergency room bills will not be paid,’ she said. ‘You were unlucky enough to end up in the hospital on the last day of the month.’

‘Ultimately those costs are going to be borne by all of us: higher insurance premiums, higher hospital costs, and of course more uncompensated care costs,’ she added.”


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