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Policymakers Divided on Medicaid Expansion

Policymakers Divided on Medicaid Expansion

Implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act has quickly shaped up to be perhaps the highest profile and most hotly debated issue of the 2013 legislative session.  Governor Rick Scott surprised many when he announced shortly before the session that he supports expanding Medicaid to comply with the Affordable Care Act.  Several Republican policymakers promptly questioned the decision and announced their continuing opposition to Medicaid expansion.

Even with the Governor supporting the concept, expanding Medicaid has faced significant questions in the legislature.  A House select committee on implementation of the Affordable Care Act opposed Medicaid expansion along a party-line vote.  The Florida Senate select committee followed this week by also rejecting Medicaid expansion.  Senators instead expressed interest in exploring a voucher system using federal funds to help uninsured low-income Floridians get health insurance coverage from private insurers.

Senator Joe Negron, chairman of the Senate select committee, said he thinks Florida has “an opportunity to build a better program than what Washington is trying to force on us.”  Senate Democrats countered that Florida should pursue Medicaid expansion as its method of implementing the Affordable Care Act.  Speaker of the House Will Weatherford issued a statement supporting the Senate committee’s decision, clearly signaling the House’s position on the issue.  Weatherford said he wants to provide a safety net for uninsured Floridians but not want to jeopardize the state’s ability to fund schools, public safety and protection of beaches and springs.