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Florida receives go-ahead to privatize Medicaid. Is expansion next?

Gov. Rick Scott has said that Florida cannot expand Medicaid unless the federal government approves the state’s plan to privatize Medicaid. Well, the Medicaid managed care agreement is all but done.

Now, the ball is in the state’s court on Medicaid expansion, without 1 million uninsured Floridians waiting in the balance.

Senate President Don Gaetz said the discussions shouldn't be mixed. Whether the state expands Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has nothing to do with the federal government’s decision to grant the state the waiver it needed to privatize Medicaid, he said.

“The two are completely separate issues,” Gaetz said, noting that the Senate committee studying the health care law will eventually come up with a recommendation on whether the state should expand Medicaid.

But it is Scott who has linked the two. Although he has stopped short of saying he would embrace the Medicaid expansion, the governor has said in recent weeks that he is willing to work with the federal government as long as the waiver was part of the conversation.

Meanwhile, Democrats are still expressing concern about Medicaid privatization. Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, said in a news release that the “agreement in principle” outlines lingering concerns the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has with Florida’s Medicaid managed care plan. Jones is lead Democrat on the House's health care budget committee.

“Specifically, federal health officials have highlighted the importance that the Medicaid program incorporates data driven achievable goals and strategies, rigorous and independent evaluation, and robust community input from beneficiaries and other stakeholders,” Jones said.

Click here to Download CMS letter on Medicaid waiver