WellCare Extends Coverage Deadline for Florida Medicaid Beneficiaries
Florida health officials and WellCare Health Plans have negotiated a deadline extension for more than 34,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in Duval County to find new coverage after the insurer announced two months ago that it was withdrawing from a Medicaid pilot program, the Florida Times-Union reports. Under the agreement, beneficiaries enrolled in WellCare's Health Ease program have until July 1 to find new coverage, but the 2,300 beneficiaries in the company's Staywell plan still must find new coverage by May 1.
The pilot program introduced by then-Gov. Jeb Bush (R) transferred Medicaid beneficiaries in five counties into HMO-style plans. According to the Times-Union, there is no evidence that the program is saving the state money, and a large number of physicians have dropped out of the program citing low reimbursement rates and cumbersome paperwork.
WellCare's decision to withdraw from the program left 78,000 beneficiaries in Duval and Broward counties looking for new coverage. According to University of Florida professor R. Paul Duncan, it is unclear whether the five remaining plans can accept so many new beneficiaries. Chris Osterlund, assistant deputy secretary for Medicaid at Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, said that a review of Duval's capacity showed that the five plans could handle WellCare's beneficiaries and an additional 18,000 if needed. Osterlund said that many of the beneficiaries will not have to switch physicians because 80% of the physicians who accepted WellCare also accept at least one other Medicaid plan. Osterlund added that to alleviate some of the pressure on the remaining five plans, Sunshine State Health Plan will start offering Medicaid plans in June (Cox, Florida Times-Union, 4/23).