Earlier this month, the governor told a lawyers convention in Washington that he intends to sit down soon with Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to work out a solution for a health care insurance exchange that will be run by either the state or in concert with the feds.
But Tampa-area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor isn't satisfied with Scott's change of heart. She wants to see concrete actions.
In a letter sent today to the governor, Castor urged him to begin implementing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would increase reimbursements to primary care physicians treating Medicaid patients.
"The State of Florida has no legal or rational justification to delay the increase," Castor wrote. "Indeed, it is in the best interests of Florida families to move as expeditiously as possible."
"Florida reimbursement rates to Medicaid doctors have been notoriously low for decades," Castor continued. "The unconscionably low rates have deterred talented doctors from serving families and seniors who rely on Medicaid. In turn, without an adequate primary care workforce, the low rates have been a barrier to access to quality health care for Florida children with special needs, newborn babies and many of our older neighbors."
Part of the the Affordable Care Act calls for coverage of individuals up to 133 percent of the poverty level, or an additional 17 million Americans, starting in 2014. In return, the federal government would pick up all healthcare costs for the first few years, and 90 percent of expenses after that.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, because many doctors have dropped Medicaid patients (saying they aren't properly compensated), the law requires that reimbursements to primary-care doctors increase by an average of about 34 percent,
Scott said earlier this month that in order to increase Medicaid payments, the Legislature or the Legislative Budget Commission would need to approve that transaction. Don Gaetz, a spokesman for Florida Senate President, said last week that the Legislature doesn't need to take any direct action.
In her letter to the governor, Castor quoted the Kaiser Family Foundation as reporting that Florida primary-care doctors who currently receive Medicaid patients receive only 55 percent of rates paid out for treating Medicare patients.
The provision for higher reimbursement rates for doctors takes effect in January 2013 and pays these providers at Medicare rates for calendar years 2013 and 2014. Increased reimbursement will apply to services provided to Medicaid enrollees by physicians practicing family medicine, general internal medicine, pediatric medicine, and related sub specialties.