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New conservative think tank calls Florida’s Medicaid Reform Pilot program ‘a decided success’

The Foundation for Government, a new Naples-based conservative policy group, has released its latest publication, claiming that Florida’s controversial five-county Medicaid Reform Pilot “has been a decided success.”

Foundation for Government Accountability CEO Tarren Bragdon (Pic via floridafga.org)

Foundation CEO Tarren Bragdon writes in his report (.pdf), published by the Heritage Foundation, that the state’s Medicaid privatization plan has “improved the health of enrolled patients, achieved high patient satisfaction, and kept cost increases below average, saving Florida up to $118 million annually.”

The report also claims that “if Florida’s Medicaid Reform Pilot experience were replicated nationwide, Medicaid patient satisfaction would soar, health outcomes would improve, and Medicaid programs could save up to $28.6 billion annually.”

The Foundation is a “free market” public policy group that was created by interested parties in Florida looking to bring Bragdon, the former CEO if a similar policy group in Maine, to Florida. So far, the group has not disclosed who those initial donors and interested parties were. However, the group has already made inroads with state government, and is gearing up to influence Florida’s 2012 legislative session.

In his 25-page report, Bragdon writes that during the past five years, the Medicaid Reform Pilot has been implemented in the state it has:

  • Maintained health outcomes at or above the national average for the majority of indicators and improved outcomes for recipients through financial incentives;
  • Achieved patient satisfaction levels above the national averages of other state Medicaid programs and even commercial health maintenance organizations (HMOs); and
  • Restrained costs, flattening the cost curve for per person spending over the past five years.

Bragdon’s report is currently one of the only studies touting the success of the Pilot program.

In April, Georgetown University released a report indicating that the Pilot program has not shown any clear signs of saving money. As The Florida Independent reported, the study also “pointed out that Medicaid costs ‘significantly less on a per-person basis than private insurance – often because provider reimbursement is low.’”

“This is especially true in Florida,” the Georget0wn report explained, “which has a low per-person cost – ranking 43rd in the country.” The report concluded that, ultimately, “much critical information is still lacking about the impact of Florida’s Medicaid pilots, including whether or not the pilots have saved money – and if they have whether the savings came at the expense of needed care.”

Patient advocates and doctors have criticized the Pilot program for offering poor access to prenatal care.

The state is currently awaiting federal approval of its plan to expand the five-county Pilot statewide.

Florida PIRG, a public interest research group, has said that the plan is “essentially taking a failed five county experiment that was rife with fraud and expanding it to all sixty-seven Florida counties.” The group has also called the state’s plans a “recipe for a massive taxpayer rip-off.”

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