NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 20, 2008

A promising pilot program in Florida may give North Carolina's Medicaid program ideas on how to reform, says the Carolina Journal.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature crafted a demonstration program three years ago and got approval from Washington to proceed in the Jacksonville area and several other counties.

  • Called "Empowered Care" by Florida leaders, the program gives Medicaid recipients a set amount of money per month, adjusted by health risks, with which to enroll in private health plans.
  • Recipients also receive counseling on how to choose among the various options to find coverage and provider networks best suited to their family's needs.

Just two years into the implementation, it's too early to draw definitive conclusions about Florida's Medicaid reform.  But there are several indicators of progress toward the goals of the plan, including increased choice, patient satisfaction and fiscal restraint:

  • After the reform plan was implemented, the number of managed-care options increased from 15 to 22 in Broward and Duval counties, including a specialty network serving children with chronic conditions; many of the pre-existing plans introduced new coverage options, as well.
  • In the first year of operation, expenditures for the elderly and disabled component of the Medicaid caseload came in at nearly 8 percent below the authorized budget.
  • The program gives all Medicaid recipients "enhanced benefit account" from which they can spend cash on additional services; the state then credits these accounts as enrollees provide proof of such activities as annual physicals and vaccinations.

It's too soon to declare Florida's Medicaid reforms an unqualified success.  But it's not too soon for North Carolina and other states to start tracking the pilot closely and looking for valuable lessons, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "Medicaid in Florida," 'Empowered Care' may provide lessons," Carolina Journal, Vol. 17, No. 8, August 2008.

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