By
Anne Swerlick
|
February 18, 2021

New Legislation Would Help Reduce Health Disparities Among Medicaid Enrollees 

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.

Passage of HB 899 (Bartleman) and SB 1272 (Rodriguez) would be an essential step toward reducing health and health care disparities in Florida, and particularly timely given staggering rates of infection and death in communities of color due to the pandemic. 

Florida Policy Institute has previously reported on the unique opportunity that the Medicaid program provides for addressing disparities.  Thirty-four percent of Medicaid enrollees are Hispanic and 26 percent are Black. Most are enrolled in managed care plans (MCOs).

As part of its Medicaid oversight responsibilities, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) collects and publishes data on how well MCOs are meeting certain quality measures. This includes access to preventive care, controlling high blood pressure, medication management for people with asthma, and hospital readmissions.

In recent years, AHCA has reported significant improvement on these measures. But questions remain: Are people of color and other historically underserved groups benefiting from these improvements?  Does Florida's Medicaid program help reduce health disparities?

Florida Department of Health data show that Floridians of color experience higher rates of illness and death from a number of health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, specific cancers, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, mental health, and asthma.

HB 899 and SB 1272 would require the state to disaggregate or break down MCO performance measure data based on race, ethnicity, disability, and other demographics; to publicly report these measures; and to use these measures to monitor plan performance.

Multiple other states are already doing this, as well as the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) for Medicare Part C plans.

Experts agree that to develop and implement targeted strategies to reduce disparities, you must first identify where they exist. This "does not, in and of itself, guarantee…any actions to reduce or eliminate disparities… The absence of data, however, essentially guarantees that none of those actions will occur."

It is critical for policymakers to pass HB 899 and SB 1272 and take this crucial first step to meaningfully address health disparities.

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Improving Health Equity

Lawmakers can reduce racial health disparities through targeted policy changes

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