Lawmakers said the program was overwhelming the state budget and needed to be privatized to rein in costs and improve patient care. Critics fear the bills build on a flawed five-county experiment where patients struggled to access specialists and doctors complained the treatments they prescribed were frequently denied.
State Sen. Joe Negron, who spearheaded the overhaul, said leaders have learned from the pilot program's shortcomings and it now includes increased oversight and more stringent penalties, including fining providers up to $500,000 if they drop out. The measures also increase doctors' reimbursement rates and limits malpractice lawsuits for Medicaid patients in hopes of increasing doctor participation in the program.
The bills (HB 7107 and HB 7109) also require providers to generate a 5 percent savings the first year, which could save the state about $1 billion.