Despite problems brought to light by health care providers, patients and research studies, a Medicaid managed care pilot program in place in five Florida counties for more than five years was recently extended, temporarily at least.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Wednesday:

Federal officials have agreed to extend Florida’s controversial Medicaid pilot project by one month while deciding whether to give the state permission to turn health care for the poor over to HMOs.

Florida officials hope to save big bucks by turning Medicaid into what’s called “managed care” through private HMOs. Some Democrats in Congress and the Legislature oppose the move, saying many patients would lose access to good-quality care.

The Agency for Healthcare Administration (aka AHCA) reported in January that Florida’s Medicaid program provides medical coverage to about 2.9 million (.pdf) low-income individuals and families.

Laura Goodhue — executive director of Florida Chain, a statewide consumer health advocacy organization — writes to The Florida Independent:

The extension of the pilot is inconsequential. This was expected for a number of reasons and we have seen this in other states. For one, there is no back-up plan to transition Medicaid recipients into another type of delivery system and suddenly ending the pilot would have caused chaos and seriously jeopardized access to health care. It simply means AHCA will continue to negotiate with [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (aka CMS)] to extend the current pilot.

This does not signify in any way that CMS will approve statewide expansion as they have yet to receive the waiver application from the state to do so. They have signaled that they have very serious concerns with expansion of Medicaid Reform.

The state Legislature recently passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law, a statewide Medicaid managed care plan.

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