As the Florida Legislative Session winds down, it is incumbent upon lawmakers to increase Medicaid home health reimbursement rates so that low-income and disabled Floridians have increased access to cost-effective, high quality care at home. Rates have not been increased since 1987, and for 26 years our state's poorest and sickest citizens have had to turn to more expensive institutions to receive health care.

As a home health care professional, I have witnessed Medicaid recipients' lack of access to these critical health care services, due to the fact that reimbursement does not come close to the cost to provide care. Because of this reality, just over 70 of the state's 2,200 home care agencies (3 percent) accept Medicaid patients.

A 2009 report by the AARP Public Policy Institute found that "on average, the Medicaid program can provide (home and community-based services) to three people for the cost of serving one person in a nursing home."

Increasing funding will not only expand access to care, but it will reduce hospitalizations and save taxpayer dollars.

Bill Reak
Fort Walton Beach