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Fearing Loss of $1 Billion in Federal Aid, Senate Again Considers Medicaid Expansion

| March 11, 2015

Health Policy Committee Chairman Aaron Bean, a Jacksonville Republican, doesn't give a Medicaid bill much chance, but he's pushing for it. (Facebook)

Health Policy Committee Chairman Aaron Bean, a Jacksonville Republican, doesn’t give a Medicaid bill much chance, but he’s pushing for it. (Facebook)

Florida lawmakers are watching a projected $1 billion surplus disappear before their eyes. The cause: the impending loss of $1 billion in federal funds that support hospitals that treat low-income, uninsured patients. Both Governor Rick Scott and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli are counting on that money to come down, but the Senate is not. Tuesday the Senate’s Health Policy Committee approved a plan to pull down $50 billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid with the intent that the Medicaid money would more than offset the loss of the Low-Income Pool Funds.Lynn Hatter speaks with Tom Flanigan about the impending clash between the House and Senate on whether and how to expand Medicaid in Florida.

Health Policy Committee Chairman Aaron Bean describes his plan as a “snowball’s” chance– but remains optimistic the two chambers can reach some sort of consensus on a Medicaid expansion. Still, Bean says, it’s still early in the session and discussions have been intermittant:

“More and more everyday,” he says, describing the current state of conversations over Medicaid between the House and Senate.”I look forward to having that debate going forward.”

That debate is already underway, with the Senate making its position known early. The plan approved Tuesday by the Senate Health Policy Committee steers people who qualify for coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, into private health plans offered under a Florida-based insurance exchange. That insurance exchange is modeled off two existing programs. Recipients would receive vouchers to purchase the plans and there would be work requirements, co-pays and premiums ranging from $3 to $25 based on income.

It would also set up personal health savings accounts, but most importantly, it would allow Florida to pull down $50 billion in federal money to fund the program. The Senate has long supported such a plan, but the House has managed to stymie it for the past two years.

Now the state is in an unexpected budget hole, and according to a recent study, accepting the Medicaid money could potentially offset the loss of the Low-Income Pool Funds. Still, Governor Rick Scott and House leaders are including the LIP money in their proposed budgets, and that’s a problem, says Republican Senator Bill Galvano.

“These are Florida dollars, they don’t come out the ground in Washington D.C. They come out of our pockets in the state of Florida. And I assure you, and the Florida House, that this will be the cornerstone of our 2015-2015 budget.”

The Senate is digging in to it’s pro-expansion position. And former Senate President Don Gaetz is taking swipes at expansion opponents.

“If you hold both positions—that you want the LIP money, but you don’t want federal money, then it seems to me that it’s selective indignation.”

Opposition to expansion is dwindling, but it still remains. The current argument is that the federal government can’t be trusted to uphold its end of the bargain. And Medicaid expansion opponents point to the impending loss of the Low-Income Pool funding as a primary example of that.

“Proponents think they can accept billions of dollars in federal deficit spending on their own terms, without having to acknowledge the heavy strings that come attached to federal funding,” said Americans For Prosperity, Florida State Director Chris Hudson. “Americans for Prosperity has been watching Medicaid expansions unfold across the country, and we see the results: Medicaid expansion doesn’t work,” he said in a written statement.

The James Madison Institute, AFP and Florida Chamber of Commerce all oppose the Senate’s plan.

–Lynn Hatter, Health News Florida

9 Responses for “Fearing Loss of $1 Billion in Federal Aid, Senate Again Considers Medicaid Expansion”

  1. Obama 2015 says:

    Just accept the dam expansion already. Stop screwing the people of Florida. Vets and early retired Floridians need this program.

  2. Anon says:

    How about they do something new with the property tax or institute a small progressive income tax? If they are so worried about the budget then they should at least entertain the idea of tax reform. Instead we all get slammed with some of the most regressive sales and excise taxes in the country. As far as healthcare, with a single-payer system like Canada the medicaid discussion would be non-existent.

  3. Nalla C. says:

    Call it what it is, Mr. Gaetz. It’s not “selective indignation” to hold both positions (wanting the LIP money but not the Federal money), it is blatant hypocrisy.

    This has been going on for years now–it is time to call out these wretched and heartless “representatives” without regard to being polite. They don’t care if people live or die, clearly, if they’d continue to deny this expansion.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Geez, Florida…Your prejudice and narrow-minded thinking sure is getting expensive. But, as long as those struggling the most suffer the most, I guess it really doesn’t matter too awfully much. High highly principled of you!

  5. Merrill Shapiro says:

    No one in their right mind can expect our state legislature to do something that might make President Barack Obama look even marginally competent. Besides, not expanding Medicaid allows so many of our legislatures to simultaneously claim that are “Good Christians” while letting poor people die. Then there are the poor people who show up in hospital emergency rooms while the legislators pretend that we’re not paying for their care. We all respond to them intellectually and rationally, two qualities that seem to be unknown in Tallahassee!

  6. Sherry Epley says:

    Right On Merrill! This travesty of a governor and legislature is all about OBSTRUCTING President Obama. . . even if that means turning down billions of tax dollars to assist those underprivileged citizens of Florida in need of health care.

    Think of it this way. . . our federal income taxes are NOT decreased by denying the expansion of Medicaid. Instead, those dollars are going to the states whose leaders are smart enough to accept them. Our leaders in Tallahassee need to put ALL Floridians above politics. Why oh why don’t our voters see through this kind of nonsense and elect those that “really” represent them????

  7. TBG says:

    A Tea Party friend explained it to me this way: The Pols in Tallahassee are afraid of taking medicare funds from Washington because when they get the presidency they will repeal the National Health Act and they would look bad in taking away the only healthcare from a couple million people Florida citizens. So it’s best those people never had it in the first place.

    Bless Their Christian Hearts!

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