Florida remains stubborn on Medicaid expansion

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on April 1, 2023. 

OUR POSITION: We implore the Legislature to consider expanding Medicaid before it adjourns this month.

One more time. The Florida Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis need to embrace expansion of Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of needy Floridians.

We’ve said it before and we’ll continue to raise the issue. It’s too important to too many people to just ignore the state’s poor reasoning not to give in.

While Florida stands firm with nine other Republican-led states, others are accepting the federal government’s help for people who fall through the cracks for medical assistance.

Last week, the Republican-dominated Legislature in North Carolina approved the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The decision will make medical aid available to people who make too much money to qualify for conventional Medicaid but not enough to receive subsidized insurance through Affordable Care Act marketplaces.

The situation in Florida is even more dire considering about 1 million residents in our state may soon lose health coverage as the COVID expansion of Medicaid runs out and the state has so far refused to replace it.

According to numbers from a Palm Beach Post story, since COVID struck, about 1.7 million residents used Medicaid for dental care, X-rays and to pay for doctor’s visits as COVID impacted their ability to work.

In all 5.5 million people in Florida count on Medicaid for help. If the Legislature does nothing — and there appears to be no movement at all to help — nearly a million will be stricken from Medicaid roles in the next year.

Excuses lawmakers have made in the past for refusing to accept the ACA help is that they do not trust the federal government to keep its promise of paying for up to 90% of the costs. But the 90% to be paid by the federal government is written in law. It would take a monumental piece of legislation to override that.

Republicans in Florida say Medicaid is already a drain on Florida’s economy and to add hundreds of thousands to the rolls would create a potential economic catastrophe. They are still saying that despite two straight years of historic income and record budgets.

North Carolina Republicans — and those from other red states like Kentucky — grew tired of leaving federal money on the table. The Urban Institute estimated North Carolina had lost about $40 billion in federal money that could have helped pay for the poorest people in that state to have medical care.

North Carolina legislators heard expectations of about 80,000 more health care related jobs in the state if expansion was approved. Gov. DeSantis loves to point out how people are moving to Florida for opportunities and thousands of health care jobs sound good to us.

And, speaking of people relocating to Florida, we can imagine more than a few of those people might qualify for Medicaid assistance.

We’ve never heard a logical argument for turning down billions of dollars in government aid to provide good health care for people who need it and can’t afford it. Those people often end up seriously ill or in hospital emergency rooms for care that taxpayers end up subsidizing.

We believe Florida lawmakers are being stubborn. With only 10 states refusing the ACA help, we may some day find ourselves alone while others take advantage of a federal-funded program designed to help people who need it most.


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