Providers, advocates blast proposed $98 million Medicaid cut

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A push by the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to trim nearly $100 million from the state’s main safety-net health care program for the poor is coming under fire by health-care providers and advocates for low-income families.

The state wants to reduce from three months to 30 days the grace period for retroactively paying Medicaid claims.

The state estimates that the policy change will impact about 39,000 people, but representatives from the Safety Net Hospital Association of Florida and two left-leaning policy institutes testified Tuesday that the state’s estimate is too low. The groups have made public record requests for the data. 

The latest round of criticism came at a public meeting in Tallahassee Tuesday, the second meeting in two weeks the state has held on the proposed the changes to Florida’s sweeping Medicaid 1115 waiver.

Agency for Health Care Administration spokesperson Mallory McManus said the state would provide the data to the groups within the next two days. In a prepared statement to The News Service of Florida, McManus stressed that “no Medicaid services are being reduced as a result of this amendment.”

Federal law directs state Medicaid programs to provide a 90-day retroactive coverage to give people time to apply for Medicaid coverage following a traumatic incident or diagnosis of an illness. That way people have time to gather what they need for the application that includes, among other things, proof of age and citizenship, as well as proof of all sources of income and assets.

But at Scott’s urging, state legislators agreed to authorize the Agency for Health Care Administration to amend its Medicaid 1115 waiver to limit coverage to 30 days. If approved, Florida will join a handful of states that have eliminated so-called “retroactive eligibility.”

While proponents say the move is meant to encourage people to quickly apply for the program and begin receiving benefits, opponents say the shortened time frame hurts those who need the help the most.