Keith Perry: Reforms needed for Medicaid


Published: Monday, February 4, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 11:14 p.m.

When Medicaid began it served as our answer to the universal, and to many spiritual, call to care for those in desperate need. It recognized a willingness in all of us to help not only our family and friends, but strangers that we are bound to through our humanity.

The program and its intentions look very different today. Medicaid is too often required to stretch and enclose more families than we ever intended. Hindered by its inability to change, to adjust to new technologies and new conditions, Medicaid has become a financial burden to the taxpayer.

The sustainability of Medicaid requires serious discussions about new paths toward a low-cost, effective health care system. Florida currently spends more than $22 billion a year to provide 3 million residents with Medicaid benefits. The program accounts for more than 25 percent of the state budget.

This disproportionate funding of Medicaid does not go unnoticed in Tallahassee and results in other important state initiatives such as public safety, infrastructure and education not receiving the additional funding they deserve. Consequently, the entire state suffers.

Solutions are ignored in order to maintain a bloated program.

Today, too many families are tied to Medicaid in order to have access to health care, but their participation prevents these families from planning for a future in which they no longer require assistance. Participation in the program inherently discourages upward economic mobility. As a result, the dilemma of encouraging families to move off Medicaid becomes a political football kicked left and right across the proverbial aisle.

The alarming statistics and price tags associated with Medicaid would be easier pills to swallow if we had an exceptional, effective program. Instead, what we find is a program with a lack of uniform access to medical care, delays in care, a limited number of providers and debilitating issues with reimbursement rates to those providers.

Another crippling aspect of the current Medicaid system is a lack of studies that investigate whether other methods of delivery could improve health care. Too often we find that “solutions” to Medicaid issues involve more consolidation of services, more regulations and more taxes. We have become so mired in the current bureaucratic system that we are prevented from studying new solutions.

Florida needs Medicaid reform, and to accomplish that goal, Floridians need to be willing to give new ideas, programs and reasoned solutions a chance.

But there's no need to reinvent the stethoscope.

By combining educational, vocational and economic opportunities through the state with a private insurance policy that expands and improves all aspects of the patient's experience, as well as the provider's compensation, Floridians can provide a health care system similar to the one already utilized by state employees. Through a five-year pilot opportunity-based Medicaid program, we can encourage new innovations in how Medicaid is delivered.

The solution to Medicaid requires a willingness to explore and to study new opportunities. I believe that willingness already exists in Florida and I intend to foster that drive for improved health care for my fellow Floridians.

State Rep. Keith Perry is a Gainesville Republican whose district includes parts of Alachua, Gilchrist and Dixie counties.

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