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Democrats/Health Care Advocates Urge FL Legislature to Pass Medicaid Expansion

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NIH Clinical Center via Flickr Creative Commons
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U.S. Rep. Cathy Castor, D-Tampa, and healthcare advocates held a media conference Monday to highlight a long-shot effort in the Florida House to expand Medicaid through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

Florida is one of 12 states that has still declined to expand Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Lawmakers had initially debated the issue intensely, but that battle has cooled in recent years. On Wednesday, April 7, members of the Florida House will consider an amendment to the chamber’s proposed healthcare budget, (HB 5201) filed last week by State Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura, the amendment would expand Medicaid eligibility to the more than 800,000 Floridians who fall into the Medicaid gap, meaning they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to quality for subsidized health coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

Executive Director of Florida Voices for Health Scott Darius said the American Rescue Plan, or ARP, “sweetens the deal” for states like Florida that have NOT expanded Medicaid.

“The ARP gives states that newly expand a 5% increase in their base federal medical assistance percentage or FMAP for two years,” said Darius.

“Now, the official CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) estimate says that this bump would result in an additional $2.5 billion, but according to estimates from other groups like the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Florida would receive between $3 billion and $3.5 billion dollars to fund healthcare.”

Darius said after taking into account the $1.26 billion cost of expanding Medicaid, Florida would still see a net gain of more than $1.8 billion on top of the $200 million a year Florida would save through Medicaid expansion.

Speaking during Monday’s virtual media conference, U.S. Rep. Castor accused Governor Ron DeSantis and the state legislature of “fiscal malpractice” for their continued opposition to expanding Medicaid.

“It’s a real head scratcher now why the state of Florida is in this small minority of states that refuses to accept the additional dollars,” said Castor.

“These are our tax monies! This is the hard-earned tax money of people who live and work in the state of Florida, send it up to Washington DC, and right now those dollars are going to subsidize the healthcare of people in other states.”

Even with Florida’s currently limited eligibility for Medicaid, the program is expected to cost $31.6 billion this year, which is about one-third of the state budget. Also, GOP leaders continue to voice concern about the state’s share of an expanded Medicaid program, which would increase after the first two years.

Darius cited a recent poll conducted by Florida Voices for Health suggesting that Medicaid Expansion is popular with Florida voters across the political spectrum. It finds that 76% of registered voters in the state support expanding Medicaid, including 69% of Republicans.

State Secretary for the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Barbara DeVane said groups like hers are hoping for a robust debate among lawmakers on Wednesday, but said that won’t happen if supporters of Medicaid expansion don’t call their lawmakers.

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