U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott today, urging him to implement the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would increase reimbursements to primary care physicians treating Medicaid patients. Castor, who served on the Energy & Commerce Committee while the legislation was written and helped write this provision, said the committee's intent was for the payment increase to be automatic, meaning neither the governor nor state Legislature should delay the payment boost.
"The State of Florida has no legal or rational justification to delay the increase," Castor wrote. "Indeed, it is in the best interests of Florida families to move as expeditiously as possible."
"Florida reimbursement rates to Medicaid doctors have been notoriously low for decades," Castor continued. "The unconscionably low rates have deterred talented doctors from serving families and seniors who rely on Medicaid. In turn, without an adequate primary care workforce, the low rates have been a barrier to access to quality health care for Florida children with special needs, newborn babies and many of our older neighbors."
Earlier this year, Castor urged Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature to reconsider not including the $438.5 million for increasing reimbursement rates in the state budget. At that time, Castor also made it clear that the legislative intent was to expeditiously broaden access to care to pediatricians, family physicians and primary care doctors for Florida families.
Florida's 14 pediatric programs -- including St. Joseph's Hospital, Tampa General Hospital, and All Children's Hospital -- rely on Medicaid funding for an average of 62 percent of their hospital stays.
Castor worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to broaden the final definition of primary care physician to include more specialists. Pediatric specialists are critical to the care of many special needs-children served by Medicaid in Florida.