Fasano calls Senate Medicaid move a “cop out”by John Kennedy | March 12th, 2013
Florida hospitals and health care advocates rallied Tuesday at the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to endorse expanding Medicaid — only hours after a state Senate committee said the state should come up with its own program for insuring 1 million low-income residents.
But the harshest critics of the move by the Republican-led panel was a House Republican, Rep. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey. He dismissed it as just another delaying tactic by Florida Republican leaders who have long opposed the federal Affordable Care Act.
“That’s a cop out. Nothing more than a cop out,” Fasano told supporters rallying on the Old Capitol steps.
He accused fellow Republicans of “making excuses not to accept federal dollars for those who are needy.”
A Senate committee examining the federal health care overhaul Monday defied Gov. Rick Scott’s call for expanding Medicaid.
Instead, the chairman of the panel, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said lawmakers should begin work this session on an alternate approach that would need to gain federal approval. He said the Florida Healthy Kids program could be expanded to offer health coverage to 1 million individuals, families and children.
The Senate proposal is a tall order. But it comes only a week after a House committee also dug in and said it would not support expanding Medicaid to 138 percent of the poverty level — an option facing lawmakers who could draw $51 billion in federal money into the program over the next decade at a cost of about $3.5 million to the state.
Bruce Reuben, president of the Florida Hospital Association, said his association continues to push for expanding Medicaid. But Reuben said he was pleased that lawmakers at least say they will try to find a way to pull the federal money into a Florida-centric progam.
“I’m encouraged that they’re looking at something very seriously and very thoughtfully,” Reuben said. “I don’t know enough about the details yet to know whether it’s something that’s truly viable.”
Hospitals have looked to Medicaid expansion for help in reducing the almost 4 million Floridians who have no health insurance. Hospitals lost $2.8 billion last year in charity care — treating patients who had no coverage.
“For us, getting people covered is the issue. What you call it, is really not that important,” Reuben said.