13,500 Florida seniors to move to Medicaid managed care system as of Sunday

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On Sunday, thousands of residents of southwest Florida will become part of the long-debated shift to a Medicaid managed care system, reports Jim Saunders for the News Service of Florida

Nearly 13,500 low-income individuals residing in 12 counties needing long-term medical care — many of them seniors — are the first wave in a systematic procedure that ultimately has all Florida Medicaid beneficiaries enrolled in either managed-care plans or HMOs.  

The process of moving the state’s 90,000 people needing long-term care to the new program began Aug. 1 for four Central Florida counties, with a completion date of March 1, 2014. The transition will occur in shifts with the state divided into 11 regions.

The region affected by Sunday’s action includes the counties of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Sarasota, Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie.

As part of the new system, the Agency for Health Care Administration awarded contracts after seeking bids from health plans in each region. For the Southwest Florida counties, the plans include American Eldercare, Sunshine State Health Plan and United HealthCare of Florida.

Critics of the plan, like AARP Florida, are skeptical of the move, concerned about a lack of government oversight. AHCA officials say they will focus on keeping any disruptions to a minimum.

Only one assisted-living facility declined to participate in the program, moving 10 Medicaid beneficiaries to other facilities before the Aug. 1 rollout.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.