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AHCA wants feds to extend Medicaid pilot program again

From Jim Saunders at the News Service of Florida:

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration on Friday asked for another temporary extension to negotiate with federal officials on continuing a controversial Medicaid pilot program. AHCA is seeking a temporary extension through the end of August.

The pilot was scheduled to end June 30, but AHCA has received two other temporary extensions this summer, including one set to expire Sunday.

The pilot, which started in 2006, is controversial because it requires most Medicaid beneficiaries in five counties to enroll in managed-care plans. Florida is seeking to continue running the pilot through mid-2014, while it moves forward with a broader statewide managed-care Medicaid system.

Roberta Bradford, AHCA's deputy secretary for Medicaid, indicated in a letter to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that the negotiations center on the future of what is known as the "Low Income Pool" program.

That $1-billion-year program was created as part of the pilot and funnels extra money to hospitals and other providers that serve low-income and uninsured patients. AHCA has learned during negotiations that the federal government is looking at ending funding for such programs in December 2013. That has hung up the negotiations on the state receiving a federal "waiver" to continue the pilot.

"Due to the critical nature of the funding, the state is requesting the extension of the current waiver and awaits a final determination by CMS,'' Bradford said in the letter.