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David Simmons calls Senate health plan ‘a path to Medicaid extinction’

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State Sen. David Simmons on Tuesday sent a memo to Florida lawmakers along with an opinion column he wrote for the Orlando Sentinel calling the Senate’s proposal to expand health care a “path to Medicaid extinction.”

In his memo, Simmons said there are “many misconceptions about the Senate’s healthcare plan,” and attached his op-ed piece that was published May 10.

The first four paragraphs of the op-ed describe a parade of horribles that beset the Medicaid program. It is based on the “fatally flawed premise” that once a person earns too much they lose their benefits and, Simmons said, provides no continuity in coverage and insufficient payments to physicians to induce them to treat patients.

Simmons also takes a swipe at the Low Income Pool, saying the program rewards “lack of responsibility” by giving billions of dollars to Florida to distribute directly to safety-net hospitals to cover their losses.

“So these LIP funds are equally as tainted as the traditional Medicaid monies,” Simmons writes.

“There has to be a better way than this — and there is,” he said, explaining the Senate’s proposal to increase availability of Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level as allowable under federal law and require the beneficiaries to have a job, to actively be seeking a job, to be getting an education or to be in job training, all of which would require waivers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Critics of the Senate plan have erroneously claimed the Senate plan is an expansion of Medicaid. The Senate plan is actually a path to Medicaid extinction,” he wrote.

Simmons said demanding the LIP dollars but refusing to take other Medicaid dollars that would help end the cycle of dependency on welfare and Medicaid is illogical. And while asking for a Medicaid block grant “is a step in the right direction,” the state “still must have a plan to remove these people from government assistance and help make them become full participants in the American dream.

“Sometimes just saying “no” is not a solution. Our governor and the Florida Legislature owe Floridians a plan to get us out of a broken system that, if we simply do nothing, will balloon to 4 million people by 2018.”


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