Proposal for Medicaid leads to AARP warning


Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 23, 2006 at 11:40 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - AARP Florida warned politicians Monday that support of a plan to force Medicaid recipients into managed care could result in retaliation from voters this election year.
Armed with a poll that purportedly shows Florida's seniors oppose being forced into an HMO, the group's state director, Bentley Lipscomb, said the 2.7 million members don't oppose changes, but they do oppose lack of choice.
"I don't think there will be a political price to pay if you are supporting reform; I think there will be a political price to pay if you force older people into Medicaid managed care," he said.
At issue is the state's proposal to launch a test program in four Panhandle counties as early as the end of this year that would require Medicaid recipients seeking long-term care services - such as nursing home or in-home care - to join an HMO.
The state is awaiting federal approval for the plan. State lawmakers would have to give final approval.
It's related to, but separate from, a sweeping Medicaid reform passed late last year by Florida lawmakers. That plan is starting in Duval and Broward counties and moves Medicaid recipients into managed care programs, replacing the current system where doctors and hospitals are paid a fee for each visit.
Gov. Jeb Bush, with solid backing from Republicans, said the changes are needed to curtail a $16 billion program with costs escalating by 13 percent just last year.
AARP Florida released a poll Monday it said showed nearly 75 percent of Floridians oppose such a plan.
Lipscomb said AARP Florida doesn't oppose managed care or other reform options, but the group opposes the lack of alternatives.
"We just don't want to see older people in Florida made guinea pigs to try out a system for the rest of the country," he said.
A spokesman for the state's Agency for Health Care Administration, Jonathan Burns, said the pilot in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties will provide more options than now exist while meeting the AARP's goal of providing more in-home care rather than necessitating moves to nursing homes.
"Under current Medicaid, if (recipients) need any more care than a couple of home visits, there's nothing between that and an institution," Burns said. "And the whole purpose of this reform is to give Florida's seniors the choices that I think everyone realizes they want."
While Lipscomb said the group has nothing against managed care as long as it's an option rather than a mandate, AARP Florida's Lori Parham said moving to HMOs is not a guarantee for savings.
"There is no clear evidence that mandating Medicaid managed care saves the taxpayers money," she said. "If there are savings, we believe they are more likely to go to HMO profits."

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