State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City and Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, issued statements Friday responding to Democratic leader Nan Rich’s letter calling for the federal government to reject proposed changes to the state’s Medicaid program.

Negron, one of the primary architects of the legislation, advanced two arguments he has made in the past: that the changes are necessary to put a lid on the program’s rising costs and free up budgetary room for other priorities (like education), and that the statewide package does not simply expand a five-county pilot program, which critics have called a failure. He said this year’s legislation includes stronger fiscal controls, increased reimbursements for doctors, and more protections for patients.

Their full statements are below:

Negron

The reforms adopted seek to enhance the quality of care for Medicaid enrollees while adding necessary cost-controlling measures to a program that poses a serious fiscal threat to our budget. We are now spending more on Medicaid than K-12 education.  We can no longer allow our Medicaid program to dominate our state budget, forcing us to neglect other critical areas of need.

Our plan for Medicaid is not merely an expansion of the current pilot program as Leader Rich’s letter suggests.  We have learned from the pilot program’s shortcomings, and the new statewide program incorporates successful aspects of the pilot program while increasing oversight and implementing standard business practices such as guaranteed savings and rigorous auditing requirements.  Our plan also includes reimbursement rate increases for participating physicians and measures to ensure patients are not abandoned or denied access to appropriate care, including nursing homes.

The new plan put forward ensures taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and appropriately through a shared savings program.  New requirements will cap administrative fees, and managed care providers will be required to pay back excessive profits to ensure dollars spent on Medicaid are focused on care.

We have presented the federal government with very reasonable proposals that will help us curb current Medicaid spending and allow us to serve more Floridians. Under the Obama Administration the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has granted and continues to oversee numerous waivers to states across the country, allowing them the flexibility they need to meet the challenges in these difficult economic times.  We are confident Secretary Sebelius will grant our waivers and will continue to be a partner in our effort to provide for those Floridians who have come to rely on Medicaid for their health care.

Gardiner

Starting last summer on the statewide bus tour led by President Haridopolos, members of the Senate collected input from Medicaid enrollees, providers and medical professionals.  This conversation was continued in the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee meetings led by Senator Negron, with months dedicated to listening to public testimony.  It is unfortunate Leader Rich has taken to instilling fear and offering misrepresentations as opposed to contributing a viable alternative to the comprehensive plan adopted by the Legislature.

Senators Negron, Gaetz and Garcia worked with members from both political parties when drafting the reforms to Medicaid and incorporated both Republican and Democratic suggestions.  Regrettably, it appears members of the Democratic caucus continue to push the notion that dollars paid equate to good medical care.

The reforms passed will help alleviate Medicaid’s strain on our budget while adding more efficiency and accountability to the program.  I look forward to Secretary Sebelius’ review and approval of the waivers so we can transform our Medicaid program to a more sustainable safety net that offers quality care to those in need.

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