June 30, 2017

Medicaid cuts in health bill threaten mental health care for Floridians [Miami Herald]

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.

Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald writes:

“Before Haylee Kalick signed up for Medicaid in 2015, she had been involuntarily committed to hospital psychiatric wards under Florida’s Baker Act close to 20 times, said her father, Bruce Kalick. He was the one who had to call police when his daughter swallowed a bottle of pills and when she cut her wrists with a knife.

But ever since Haylee Kalick signed up for Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans, she has been able to receive the multiple prescription drugs, weekly counseling sessions and monthly psychiatric therapy necessary to manage conditions that include Tourette Syndrome, bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

‘Medicaid literally saved her life,’ Bruce Kalick said.

Now, he fears that his daughter’s recovery could be short-circuited by Congress’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.


Like Haylee, more than 350,000 Floridians relied on Medicaid for behavioral health services, which includes mental health and substance abuse treatment, in 2015 and 2016 at a cost of about $400 million, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

That ranks Florida’s Medicaid program near the bottom of all states in behavioral health spending, said Anne Swerlick, an attorney and analyst for the Florida Policy Institute, a nonprofit that examines state policy impacts on the economy [emphasis added].

Because Florida ranks low in spending for Medicaid in general, an average of $5,864 per enrolled person, Swerlick said state legislators could be forced to make drastic cuts to the program under the proposal passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, called the American Health Care Act, and the bill currently in the Senate, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Both bills call for spending limits — known as ‘per capita caps’ — for each person enrolled in Medicaid, with annual adjustments for medical inflation. Caps would be calculated based on each state’s historical Medicaid expenditures, and any amount spent above the cap would be entirely at the state’s expense.

‘This would make a bad situation worse,’ Swerlick said."


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