Florida Democrats Again Urge Immediate Help For Medically Needy
Send Letter Requesting That Governor Bush and State Officials Provide Critical Funding
(Washington, D.C.) Representatives Robert Wexler (D-FL), Allen Boyd (D-FL), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Jim Davis (D-FL), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Kendrick B. Meek (D-FL) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) sent the following letter to Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Senate President Tom Lee, Florida House Speaker Allan Bense, Florida Senate Democratic Leader Lesley Miller, and Florida House Democratic Leader Chris Smith urging immediate action be taken to provide funding for 11,000 low-income Floridians deemed 'medically needy' who have been unable to obtain access to medications critical to their survival.
The medically needy participating in Florida's share-of-cost program are mainly comprised of patients suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, renal failure, or are organ transplant recipients. They are unable to meet the medical costs they must incur (their 'share-of-cost') before the state will render assistance. Consequently, many individuals cannot afford vital treatments, resulting in life-threatening medical emergencies.
The letter emphasizes the urgent need for the State of Florida to provide a long-term solution to fix this problem. In addition, it points out that Florida, with a $3.8 billion budget surplus, has significant resources available to come up with a viable solution that meets the needs of its most frail and vulnerable citizens. Wexler along with his democratic colleagues believes that the State of Florida and the federal government have an obligation to assist these individuals whose health and well-being are in jeopardy. On February 2, Wexler and his democratic colleagues wrote to Governor Bush requesting that he expand his January 26th Executive Order to include 'medically needy' individuals. Since the initial letter, Governor Bush has corrected a glitch in the system that affected individuals under 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL); however, his directive did not cover 11,000 Floridians who are on the share-of-cost program (those with incomes above 100 percent FPL, but with extremely limited financial means). (Please find a copy of the letter below):
March 7, 2006
Honorable Jeb Bush
Office of the Governor
PL 05 - The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Dear Governor Bush:
We are writing to you again regarding a matter of extreme urgency - Florida's share-of-cost program, also known as the medically needy category. Many Floridians participating in this critical program are unable to meet the amount they must incur (their 'share-of-cost') before the state will kick in with payment for medications; consequently, many individuals are being forced to go without vital treatments, resulting in life-threatening medical emergencies.
As our previous letter to you indicated on February 2, the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 -- which went into effect on January 1, 2006 -- prompted states, including Florida, that formerly covered individuals with incomes above 73 percent of the federal poverty level (the federally required level for Medicaid benefits) to drop these individuals from the Medicaid rolls.
Most of these "medically needy" individuals suffer from cancer, HIV/AIDS, renal failure or are organ transplant recipients, all of whom require constant care and very expensive medications, like immuno-suppressant drugs. Due to their severely limited financial means, they are unable to pay their share of the costs, putting their lives in imminent danger. Our offices have received numerous calls from desperate constituents across the state who are in this critical situation, without their life-saving drugs and require immediate assistance from the state.
Following the letter sent to you on February 2, the State recognized that a glitch in the system left thousands of people without sufficient Medicaid coverage. Subsequently, the Agency for Health Care Administration issued a directive covering individuals up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). While we applaud that directive, it only included individuals on the Meds AD (Aged and Disabled) and the QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiaries) programs. It did not cover individuals who are on the share-of-cost program (those with incomes above 100 percent FPL, but with limited financial means). According to your office, there are currently 11,000 individuals in this category, including 1,100 organ transplant recipients.
Governor Bush, while your office has been instrumental in obtaining temporary assistance for some of these individuals, a long-term solution to this problem is needed. The Florida Legislature could allocate funds to cover Part B coinsurance for these individuals, rather than requiring them to meet an unreasonably high share-of-cost. In turn, we will continue to pursue federal reimbursements to the State of Florida to help alleviate some of the fallout of Medicare Part D, including its negative effect on the share-of-cost program. Another possible solution is for the State of Florida to significantly reduce the spend-down requirement for the program, leaving patients with sufficient financial resources on which to live. As you know, Florida's spend-down requirement only leaves individuals $200 with which to pay rent, utilities, food and other necessary living expenses. I am sure you agree this policy puts thousands of Floridians with catastrophic illnesses in an untenable situation.
What is also important to note is that if these individuals do not receive their required treatments, they will be forced to seek care in hospitals in our communities. Not only will this put undue pressure on our hospitals, but it will dramatically increase costs to the state and federal governments. With a $3.8 billion budget surplus, we believe that the State of Florida has the resources available to come up with a viable solution that meets the needs of its most frail and vulnerable citizens.
Governor Bush, we urge you to immediately address this critical problem and seriously consider our proposals to provide funding for the medically needy. The State of Florida and federal government have an obligation to assist these individuals whose health and well-being are in jeopardy, and we look forward to your timely response. Thank you very much for your attention.