House panel kills Medicaid expansion on session eveby John Kennedy | March 4th, 2013
On the eve of the start of the 2013 Legislature, Gov. Rick Scott was dealt a blow Monday when a House committee killed his push for Medicaid expansion.
In a party-line vote, 10 Republicans on the House’s committee on the Affordable Care Act, voted against expansion; five Democrats sided with the Republican governor, who recently dropped his longtime opposition to the measure, which is expected to make 1 million lower-income Floridians eligibile for Medicaid.
“What you saw today was theater of the absurd,” said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, following the vote.
House Republicans took turns at the microphone to question expansion, saying it put the state at risk for future costs and relied on funding from a federal government which is weathering a host of fiscal challenges. Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, at one point likened the state relying on federal assurances of fully paying costs for the first three years of expansion as similar to tthose offered investors in Bernie Madoff’s Wall Street schemes.
“You cannot rely on someone giving us money when they are borrowing 50-cents on the dollars,” Corcoran said.
The House action came only hours after a Senate committee postponed its scheduled hearing where there was the possibility of a vote on expansion. But committee chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, raised hopes among many health care advocates by speaking generally about how Florida should make every effort to assure that Florida’s 4 million uninsured become eligible for some kind of health coverage.
The House vote likely sets the stage for a session-long fight over expansion. The politics have been complicated, with Scott getting clear support from Democrats long accustomed to opposing his policies, while Republicans are divided, at best.
Defying conservatives in his own party, Scott said he wants the Legislature to approve expanding Medicaid to 138 percent of the poverty level, a move which would make eligible almost 1 million Floridians.
Medicaid already serves 3.2 million people and absorbs almost one-third of the state’s $70 billion budget. But saying no to expansion just means Florida tax dollars will be spent in other states, supporters have said.
Under the expansion, the federal government would pay for 100 percent of the expansion until 2016, when states would start paying a 5 percent share that would gradually increase to a maximum of 10 percent of new costs by 2020.
Estimates vary, but analysts have said Medicaid expansion could bring Florida $26 billion in federal dollars over the next decade. Florida taxpayers are expected to pay $3 billion during that period, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration.