In the category of “is this good news or bad news,” the state of Florida reports that managed Medicaid membership rose about 1% in January to 1.8 million lives — accounting for nearly 70% of total Medicaid enrollment in the state. Scott Fidel of Deutsche Bank reports that Florida managed Medicaid enrollment has grown for 13 consecutive months and is up 23% since January 2009. However, the pace of growth has slowed from 1.9% in December and 2.8% in November. Notes Fidel:
Given the medical cost challenges that Medicaid plans had with new enrollment in 2009, we would view a slowing of organic growth in the near term as a necessary ingredient to help stabilize medical cost trends in Medicaid managed care. In this context, we view the slower growth rate in Florida Medicaid in January as an encouraging development. However, it is too early to tell whether the stabilization in enrollment in Florida will also be replicated in other markets, or whether the slower growth rate will actually lead to more stable medical costs for the Medicaid plans.
Could the slowing rate of increase also be a sign that the economy is improving? Not so fast, Fidel says: “The recent rise in weekly jobless claims data suggests that caution should be applied before assuming that unemployment is now set to start improving in the immediate future.”