Charlotte Sun Editorial: State may tap into Medicaid funds

June 23, 2021, OUR POSITION: Florida won’t be expanding Medicaid anytime soon, but it could agree to tap into Medicaid money for some special services.

We have editorialized for years for Florida to embrace the offer of Medicaid expansion only to see our Republican Legislature and governors — starting with Rick Scott — ignore the idea. Their key argument against expanding Medicaid coverage to 964,000 Floridians who need it has always been the price they would have to pay under the Affordable Care Act once federal money runs out. That is despite the fact the federal government has agreed to pay 90% of the cost forever and 100% for the first two years.

Money made available recently under the American Relief Plan allows states an extra 5% in federal reimbursement money for every person already on Medicaid until 2025 and covers the cost of expanding the program 100% for the first two years. Still, the Legislature failed to consider the option this past session.

But, there might be good news for some Floridians eligible for Medicaid, especially postpartum women.

Gov. DeSantis has asked for an extension to consider other Medicaid funding being offered under the American Rescue Plan. The state has until July 12 to make a decision.

According to a Miami Herald story, states have been offered additional funds to extend by 10 months the time postpartum women can qualify for Medicaid. Florida’s House Speaker, Rep. Christ Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, has already tapped into that deal.

The federal government has also offered states to draw down a 10% increase in federal Medicaid funds for home and community-based services provided under a program called iBudget for Floridians with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Last month, Florida was trying to cobble together plans to take advantage of those extra funds but had a deadline of this past weekend to do so.

The state Medicaid office has requested a 30-day extension to submit a plan to use those funds if it is approved by the federal government.

While it is rare for Florida to accept any type of Medicaid funding from Washington, it would be difficult to turn down free money – especially in areas where it is needed so badly. Estimates are the state could be awarded up to $450 million for providers who care for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, according to the Miami Herald. That money could go to all home and community-based services.

And, as the Miami Herald wrote, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would allow the funds to be channeled to a number of other uses like Medical or remedial services recommended by physicians, including mental health and substance-abuse disorder treatments, private nursing services and care for the elderly.

We’re not sure what strings are tied to the federal money or what state officials are working on to make a bid for the funds. What we do know is the money could be useful in a state that still does not adequately fund mental health care and has a large population of elderly who could use special services.

Perhaps, in the most optimistic view, if the money is appropriated to the state, our lawmakers might take notice of the difference it makes and soften their long-held disdain for Medicaid expansion. Just don’t hold your breath.

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