Florida Medicaid prepares as new minimum wage approaches for direct-care workers

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Lawmakers appropriated more than $600 million to increase the wages long-term care providers pay their staff to $15 an hour.

To ensure the money is used to boost wages, Medicaid officials require providers to enter into a supplemental agreement with the state by Oct. 1.

The Agency for Health Care Administration, which houses the state’s Medicaid offices, has been sending notices ahead of the deadline. The latest reminder was sent out Monday afternoon.

Medicaid providers that don’t reimburse direct care staff $15 an hour beginning Jan. 1, 2023, can sue their employer in court. If they are successful, workers can recover the total amount of any back wages, liquidated damages the state assessed against a managed care provider (if any), and attorneys’ fees.

The law also allows workers who are not paid the minimum mandated amounts to pursue a class action lawsuit against their employers.

The wage agreement has been posted on the Medicaid Provider Secure Web Portal website since Aug.4. Providers failing to sign the agreement will be subject to recoupment of funds associated with the minimum wage requirement.

Most providers, including local governments, which are enrolled in the Florida Medicaid program must pay direct care workers $15 an hour. However, nursing homes are required to pay their entire staff a minimum of $15 an hour.

Increases apply to managed care companies, nursing homes, and intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled, as well as most providers outside of the mandatory managed care program and bill Medicaid based on a fee-for-service schedule.

But not all fee-for-service providers are slated for this increase. 

The agency said the increases would not apply to the fee schedules used for pediatric surgeries, behavior analysis; early intervention services; durable medical equipment and medical supply services, and Regional Perinatal Intensive Care Center (RPICC) neonatal services or obstetrical services, among others.

The rates for Medicaid managed long-term care and ordered medical assistance plans have already been adjusted, effective Oct. 1, to accommodate for the new minimum wage requirements.

In 2020, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that raises the wage floor to $15 per hour by 2026. Each year on Sept. 30, the minimum wage will increase by $1 until 2026, when it hits $15 per hour.

After that, the minimum wage will be tied to inflation.

Senate President Wilton Simpson championed the inclusion of wage increases for direct care workers, all nursing home staff, and state employees in the state fiscal year 2022-2023 budget.

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