Court ruling now heightens focus on future of Florida’s Medicaid programby John Kennedy | June 28th, 2012
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday on the Affordable Care Act intensifies focus on the measure’s Medicaid expansion — with states given authority to shun the added coverage outlined by the federal law.
Medicaid already absorbs about almost one-third of Florida’s $69.9 billion state budget. Gov. Rick Scott and Republican leaders in the Legislature have warned Florida taxpayers can’t afford to underwrite any expansion in a program serving poor, disabled and elderly Floridians.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a former Republican congressman, was among the first to lash out at the decision.
“Unconstitutional or not, the so-called ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’ is the wrong policy for reforming health care and the wrong direction for America,” Putnam said. “Individual liberties and the doctor-patient relationship took a step back today.”
Despite his longheld opposition, Scott last week reiterated his earlier stance that the state would comply with the law, following the Supreme Court’s ruling. Still, he said he remained “optimistic” the sweeping legislation would be overturned by justices.
Now the focus is on the fate of Medicaid, which already absorbs $21.4 billion of Florida’s $69.9 billion state budget. State taxpayers pick up $9.7 billion of the program, with the remainder covered by the federal government.
State officials said Florida taxpayers will have to pay $121.2 million more next year, mostly to cover the enrollment of those already eligible for coverage but who have stayed out of the program for various reasons. The Affordable Care Act’s mandate is likely to bring these Floridians into Medicaid.
But cost of annual coverage is expected to reach an additional $473 million by 2016.
But health care advocates have argued the Affordable Care Act is worth the extra cost. Florida has 4 million have no health coverage, among the largest populations in the nation without coverage.
Workers losing jobs and health coverage during the economic downturn swelled the ranks of low-income, elderly and disabled Floridians covered by Medicaid from 2.1 million in 2007 to 3 million this year, with the number forecast to grow to 5 million by 2020 under the new law.
Under the law, the federal government would absorb all of the initial expansion costs, but states will have to start paying a percentage in 2016 if they want to draw federal dollars.
The states’ share for those becoming eligible under the new law would max out at 10 percent in 2020, but even that, state officials say, is expected to cost an extra $1 billion in Florida.