« Florida's highway safety agency may go to court over license tags | Main | Gov. Rick Scott, other GOP governors want meeting with President Barack Obama on health care »

Federal government has 90 days to decide if Florida can privatize Medicaid

Back in 2011, the Florida Legislature voted to turn its Medicaid program over to private managed care companies. That required a waiver of federal law, and Florida's request to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been hanging in the balance ever since.

But today, the News Service of Florida, reported that a "90-day clock" was triggered in late November, meaning the federal government has to make a decision by the end of February on one portion of the managed care proposal pertaining to senior citizens requiring long-term care. The HHS department still hasn't indicated when it will rule on the wider proposal to move nearly all of Medicaid patients to managed care, the News Service of Florida said.

The decision to convert Medicaid to a managed care system was a controversial one.

Democrats have urged the feds to veto the waiver, saying there were too many issues when the state authorized five counties to test managed care for their Medicaid patients. But Republicans have supported privatizing Medicaid, saying it could save money while increasing flexibility and choices.

From the News Service of Florida:

The federal government is expected to make a decision by the end of February about a key part of Florida's proposal to transform its Medicaid program into a statewide managed-care system.

Liz Dudek, secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, said Tuesday that what is known as a "90-day clock" began in late November for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to decide whether to approve a proposal to shift Florida seniors who need long-term care into HMOs and other types of managed care. Florida has been seeking approval of the proposal since August 2011, but the 90-day clock gives a deadline for the decision.

The state expects to start awarding contracts to managed-care plans in early 2013, with seniors beginning to enroll later in the year. Dudek told a House subcommittee that Medicaid director Justin Senior and other staff will meet with federal officials Dec. 10 about getting approval of the proposal.

"We are in weekly, if not daily, conversations with the federal government about the long-term care waiver (proposal),'' she said.

The deadline does not apply to another proposal that would shift the broader population of Medicaid beneficiaries into managed-care plans. That proposal also has been pending with the federal government for more than a year, but Florida is seeking to move forward first with the long-term care changes.