A Senate Bill that would permanently cut back the time Floridians have to apply for Medicaid if they want healthcare costs retroactively covered is up for debate when lawmakers reconvene in Tallahassee next week.
Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean, the Senate’s top health-care budget writer, filed Senate Bill 192 last week.
Previously patients were given three months of retroactive coverage from the time they become eligible to apply for Medicare. But a temporary measure that’s scheduled to expire cut that back to 30 days.
Bean’s bill would make the 30 day timeframe permanent.
Bean says his measure would save $98 million dollars. Those who take longer than 30 days to enroll would permanently lose the right to be retroactively compensated.
Bean, who heads the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee, said that money is better spent on more pressing issues.
“We’re going to be able to take that money and invest it into other things and areas of healthcare to better Floridians health, so for prevention, for mental health, for opioids,” he said.
Last year, Florida officials got approval from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the program, to cut the Medicaid retroactive eligibility to 30 days, which lawmakers included in the budget for fiscal year 2018-2019.
The change is set to expire June 30 unless lawmakers pass Bean’s legislation.
Bean said he expects his bill “could get some heat” when it is heard in committee but that he’s ready to defend the policy.
“They’re going to be rallying the troops to say this is going to disrupt our healthcare,” he said. “And I am going to present a case that I think that we could do this policy, that it’s reasonable and that we can do other things with the money”
Critics of the bill worry the change will limit access to healthcare for the poor, elderly and those with disabilities.
But Dr. Sunil Joshi, who heads the Duval County Medical Society Foundation, said the change is not as bad as it might sound.
“It’s not like oh, you have no chance now and you’re going to pay out of pocket or the hospital is going to lose the money and they’re not going to get paid,” he said. “We need to make sure people get educated enough to know that they can apply for Medicaid that same day or the day after or anytime during that calendar month and it could still retroactively apply to their bill.”
Joshi said his medical society’s position is for Medicaid expansion and to have as many people covered as possible. Increasing access means better outcomes for people. Bean’s bill would encourage more people who qualify for Medicaid to apply sooner, he said.
“People who are not on Medicaid to begin with, who probably should have been, are then also delaying their application process for Medicaid, he said. “So the hope here is that will actually encourage more people to join Medicaid and so that we can expand access to care.”
The bill would exempt pregnant women and children from the proposed changes.
The legislative session starts March 5.