Floundering Florida Medicaid “Reform” isn’t for NC

By: - August 29, 2008 11:29 am

Over on Right Wing Avenue, John Hood's been trumpeting – as recently as last month – a gung-ho experiment in Florida to privatize Medicaid health services for poor families and kids. The idea is to require kids and parents in Florida Medicaid to join HMOs, for the state to pay a set price to the private insurance companies for each person, and hope that the insurance industry will actually provide necessary health care while making enough profits for stockholders too. Hood fulsomely recommends this sort of solution for NC and pooh-poohs any criticism of the rush to the private market:

Some of their [privatization critics'] apocalyptic warnings have proved to be baseless, given the lack of mass confusion among recipients or major abandonment of Medicaid by health providers.

Whoops. Yesterday, as media all over Florida were reporting, at least two and maybe three of the private insurance companies responsible for providing health care to three-fourths of the people in Florida's Medicaid privatization experiment were pulling out. Too bad kids and moms! Here's what state officials had to say:

State officials had no answers Wednesday for how WellCare's 38,000-plus customers in Duval County would be cared for.

This is why you don't privatize critical health services for people without other options. These families are the poorest of the poor. Say a kid was getting treatment for asthma, or needed to get a physical for school, or next week comes down with the flu. No health care for them. Guess that's just the magic of the market though – some people lose out when stockholders don't make enough money and it just happens to be kids and parents this time. Oh well, as John McCain's health adviser said a couple days ago (and Bush said last year) – the uninsured have health care, they can just go to the emergency room.

Well, in my North Carolina we don't lock poor kids and moms out of their doctor's office just because stockholders at an HMO aren't happy with quarterly earnings. We have a successful reform plan run by the state that puts primary care doctors in the driver's seat, keeps people out of expensive and inefficient emergency rooms, reduces costs, and delivers some of the best quality health care in the country. Hood might want to look to his home state before taking another trip to the land of Disney, mermaids, and glass-bottomed boats.

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