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STATE SENATOR HILL SUPPORTS OPEN ACCESS

The Florida Times-Union

April 22, 2005

MEDICAID: Governor’s plan is inadequate

Gov. Jeb Bush’s plan to privatize Florida’s Medicaid program by forcing millions of recipients into HMOs is not the way to "fix" the program.

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The Medicaid program needs change. We need to make sure that the changes we are making get to the people who need help. That is not happening under the current system and will not happen under the governor’s proposed plan.

One-third of all Medicaid enrollees are African-American. At the same time, African-Americans are more likely to suffer from a chronic illness, such as asthma or heart disease, and have poorer health.

Making up only 14 percent of the population, African-Americans make up 50 percent of the HIV/AIDS cases. We need to expand Florida’s disease management programs and increase access to culturally competent physicians.

People need access to primary care doctors who have the time and training to explain conditions and treatment in easy-to-understand language.

People also need access to the prescription drugs they depend on to stay healthy. People with mental illness or HIV/AIDS must have access to the particular medications that keep them healthy.

Also, patients should not be forced to try out generic drugs before getting the brand-name medication their doctor re- commends.

These are people, not guinea pigs. They should not have to jump through hoops or experiment with medication just to live a healthy life.

We should save money by demanding better prices, not by taking medication away from people who need it. We need to do a better job of auditing claims and provide an easy way for Medicaid enrollees to report fraud.

Finally, we need to decrease the number of working people who depend on Medicaid for health care.

A recent Journal of Health Affairs study showed that health disparities can be reduced if African-Americans have greater access to health insurance coverage.

We need to begin holding Florida employers accountable and demanding that employers provide fair wages and benefits, especially those who receive tax rebates from the state.

SB 1593 would require the state to publicly release the names of employers who have employees on Medicaid. Equal access to affordable, quality health insurance couldn’t be more important than it is now.

ANTHONY C. "TONY" HILL SR.,
state senator, Tallahassee

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com