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EDITORIAL: Florida’s Failure to Expand Medicaid Hurting Disabled Children

EDITORIAL: Florida’s Failure to Expand Medicaid Hurting Disabled Children

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Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford has recently been touting his budget increases in 2014-2015 that will improve access to services for disabled citizens. He has also recently emphasized a “3% increase per student” in education funding. What he has failed to mention is that nowhere in the 2014-2015 priorities list is the expansion of Medicaid. When asked by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune about the expansion programs, Mr. Weatherford said that “Under the current circumstances, we don’t think Medicaid expansion is good for Florida.” That’s odd, considering that some amount of that $50 billion in federal revenue comes from federal taxes that Floridians pay. As one of the largest US economies, that number is most likely higher than we think. Funding the expansion of Medicaid in Florida would bring $50 billion in federal money to service about 1 million additional Floridians, about 25,000 of which live in Pasco County [Florida Hospital]. According to the County’s demographics report from 2012 about 10% of our population lives below the Federal Poverty Level. Further, the countywide average for uninsured citizens is a little more than 23 percent. That number is just crazy. The federal government agreed to pay for 100 percent of the initial costs for the expected 1.1 million additional insured citizens and 90 percent of that cost for an additional three years. Not-for-profit groups have suggested that Florida could cover everyone for about $5 per person to cover all uninsured individuals below the 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. That 138% means about $15,400 in income for an individual, or $31,800 for a family of four [NCPA.org]. If this is true, it would cost Pasco County about $250,000 a year to insure its lowest 24% of residents. That is the quintessential definition of a drop in the bucket. Meantime, continued privatization of Medicaid services in Florida is and will continue to lead toward diminishing services for those most vulnerable. Specifically disabled children seeking developmental therapy services. The Florida legislature last year chose to move Medicaid and MediPass services to a new managed care model called “Statewide Medicaid Managed Care”. As of May 1, 2014  [Alliance for Pediatric Therapies], children requiring these essential Medicaid services because of their development disabilities will have to enroll in new programs with drastically reduced provider availability. This will result in a drastic reduction in the number of providers offering services for these children. Further, two of the private companies tasked with this reorganization of Medicaid are partly owned by Miguel Fernandez, the finance chairman of Governor Rick Scott’s re-election campaign whom also happened to donate more than $1 million to Rick Scott’s re-election campaign. Mr. Fernandez recently stepped down as campaign finance chairman following the scandal. In fact, the reorganization itself was Mr. Fernandez’s idea. [Read a more scathing report on DailyKos] If this is as alarming to you as it is to me, then you may want to look into the issue a little more closely and consider contacting your legislators to stop the privatization of Florida’s Medicaid services–especially considering the legislature’s refusal to expand the coverage at the same time. Disclaimer: My mother owns OT Kid Works, a pediatric occupational therapy provider operating in Pasco since 1982 whose business will be significantly impacted in its ability to provide above standard care in Occupational Therapy to children. By Jon Tietz Medicaid Hurting Disabled Children

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