Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration has sent a new Medicaid package to federal officials for approval. If implemented, the new package would require almost all beneficiaries in the state to enroll in managed-care health plans beginning in 2013. The measure's supporters say the changes would improve care for patients and help cut Medicaid costs in general.

Opponents to the plans, many of whom are Democratic legislators, have expressed concerns about forcing beneficiaries to enroll in managed-care plans. One congresswoman said she thinks that managed-care plans may not be able to assist patients with low incomes and serious medical needs or elderly individuals who require long-term care.

As it stands, Florida's plan for Medicaid violates federal regulations. In order to make registration in managed-care plans mandatory, the plan will need to be approved for two waivers in order to be legal. The state is also hoping to amend a different waiver which would allow officials to extend required enrollment in managed-care plans mandatory for women and children as well. Florida already uses the waiver to require beneficiaries to register for managed-care plans as part of a pilot program aimed at reforming Medicare.

The policy director for Florida CHAIN, a Medicaid beneficiary advocacy group, joins several Democratic lawmakers in criticizing the plan, saying that officials should have created a new waiver instead of modifying an existing one. He argues that the current pilot is actually serving as a distraction and blocking legislators from what they hope to do with Medicaid. In response, the president of the Florida Association of Health Plans said that while he would have preferred to start with a new waiver, the plans the state eventually adopts are likely to be unique.

Source: WCTV,-TV "Heading to Feds, Florida Medicaid Package Unveiled," Jim Saunders, Aug. 2, 2011