COPH panel discusses proposed changes in health care

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Faculty from the USF College of Public Health Department of Health Policy and Management took part in a community health care action summit hosted by the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative and sponsored by the Foundation for Healthy St. Petersburg on May 19.

The summit discussed the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) and some implications for Florida Medicaid. It also included a panel discussing how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) affected different population groups, the potential impacts of the new proposed legislation, specifically in Florida, and their perceived most immediate issues to be addressed for Floridians.

The event was attended by more than 80 members of the community representing academia, managed care, health care organizations, consumer advocacy groups, and area foundations led by the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg.

Panelists included COPH’s Dr. Steve Freedman, professor of health policy and pediatrics, and Dr. Zachary Pruitt, COPH alumnus and visiting assistant professor. Dr. Joe Bohn, COPH visiting assistant professor and director of community engagement served as moderator for the panel discussion.

Also present on the panel were: Edward Kucher, VP of managed care and business development for Community Health Centers of Pinellas and Jason Altmire, SVP of public policy and community engagement for Florida Blue.

Panel members who discussed impact of coverage and access in Florida (from left): Jason Altmire, FL Blue Sr. VP of public affairs and community engagement; Dr. Joe Bohn, director of COPH Community Engagement; Dr. Steve Freedman, professor of health policy and pediatrics at COPH; Dr. Zachary Pruitt, COPH visiting assistant professor; and Edward Kucher, Community Health Centers of Pinellas, VP of managed care and business development. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joe Bohn)

Freedman provided the audience with insights related to children’s health policy issues and the potential ramifications of the pending federal legislation.

“The ACA expanded Medicaid coverage for kids,” Freedman said. “That change was not optional like the Medicaid expansion for adults, which was an option that Florida did not exercise. While that expansion was good on its face, the changes of financing source caused thousands of children covered under Florida Health Kids Corporation to switch doctors and networks. That had an adverse impact on continuity of care many children and associated confusion for their parents.”

According to Freedman, CHIP re-appropriation is imperative for continuation of Florida Health Kids Corporation, MediKids and a part of Children’s Medical Services.

If repeal and replace occurs, Freedman said, the kids’ Medicaid expansion would likely be rolled back and additional state appropriations will be required to continue the current access for children.

Pruitt provided insights on the perspectives and implications for the state’s Medicaid eligible population groups.

“In Florida, the ACA represents a missed opportunity,” Dr. Pruitt said. “Florida did not expand Medicaid which is the biggest reason Florida has among the highest uninsured rates in the country.”

According to Pruitt, the Kaiser Family Foundation found Florida to be tied for the third most uninsured state in the nation at 13 percent in 2015.

“If enacted into law, the House AHCA bill would severely cut Medicaid spending,” Dr. Pruitt said.

According to Pruitt, House legislation created a per capita federal funding cap tied to inflation.

“However, health care spending has historically grown faster than the rest of the economy,” he said. “In Florida, this phenomenon is particularly dramatic, which means that our state’s Medicaid cuts could be among the most severe in the country.”

Since this event took place, the Senate announced their version of the AHCA, the Better Care Reconciliation Act on June 22, 2017. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis predicted that over 22 million people would loose health insurance coverage over the next decade reinforcing commentary by the COPH faculty back on May 19.


Story by Dr. Joe Bohn and Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health