Medicaid costs to grow even with Scott stiff-arm, economists sayby John Kennedy | August 14th, 2012
State economists huddled Tuesday trying to make more sense of the financial impact of the federal Affordable Care Act, even though Florida Gov. Rick Scott is resisting every portion of the 2010 law whose key sections were upheld in June by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Scott has said the state will not expand Medicaid, nor take steps to create health exchanges, the consumer marketplaces where individuals and businesses can obtain insurance.
But economists concluded that even if Florida continues to stiff-arm the federal program, there will be costs to Florida taxpayers. The swirl of activity around health insurance is almost certain to attract more people to the program who are now eligible, but have so far stayed off the state’s Medicaid rolls.
Florida has 3.2 million Medicaid recipients. Economists said Tuesday that as many as 245,000 more people could begin joining the rolls in 2013-14, carrying a state price tag of as much as $394.5 million.
Economists, though, said the final number is likely to be much less. The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration earlier forecast the cost of these new enrollees to be $121.2 million next year.
Medicaid currently costs $21.5 billion in Florida, but most is paid by the federal government. State taxpayers cover about $9.7 billion of the program.
For now, though, economists concluded their review by declaring the added enrollment costs to be “indeterminate,” with too many factors currently at play to make a precise estimate.
“But we believe there is pressure there,” said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. “There will be upward impact.”
The Affordable Care Act expands the number of people eligible for Medicaid while also raising the minimum coverage.
Workers losing jobs and health coverage during the economic downturn already swelled the ranks of low-income, elderly and disabled Floridians covered by the state-federal program from 2.1 million in 2007, with the number forecast to grow to 5 million by 2020 under the new law.
The federal government will absorb all of the initial expansion costs, but states will have to start paying a percentage in 2016 if they want to draw federal money . The states’ share for those becoming eligible under the new law will max out at 10 percent in 2020, but even that, state officials say, is expected to be an extra $1 billion in Florida.