A new survey from the Florida Hospital Association shows strong support among Florida voters to keep — or in many increase — state funding for Medicaid programs.
The survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies from March 1 through March 5, found Floridians have the most favorable opinion of Medicaid that the association has recorded in six years. The poll of 600 registered voters found 56 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Medicaid, up from 47 percent in a November 2011 survey.
The results of the survey come as state lawmakers began releasing their initial budget recommendations, which included taking away as much as $621.8 million from hospitals in the coming year.
The House proposal cuts the state’s share of Medicaid by $238.6 million, or a total of $621.8 million once federal dollars are factored in. The Senate has recommended cutting $99.3 million, or a $258.6 million total cut.
But the Florida Hospital Association found that while the state is slashing budgets, many Floridians would actually like to see lawmakers keep funding as is, if not give the programs funding boost.
According to the survey, 45 percent of Floridians said they would like to see Medicaid funding increased, while 29 percent said they believe state funding should stay the same. Just 8 percent said funding for the programs should be decreased.
Six years ago, 47 percent of Floridians supported keeping the funding the same, while 39 percent wanted to see more money put into the program. Back in November 2011, 11 percent of Floridians supported decreasing funding for Medicaid programs.
When respondents were asked about a few specific areas the Legislature will be spending money on this year, 61 percent of Floridians said the state should increase funding for Medicaid, which provides health care to lower-income children, the disabled elderly, and pregnant women.
Voters also supported increasing funding for water quality problems (67%); the state’s colleges and universities (52%); tax cuts to help business to expand or relocate to Florida (31%); and tourism promotion (23%).
Yet when asked whether they would support redirecting money from Medicaid to help pay for increased funding for colleges and universities, tax cuts for businesses, and tourism promotion, 75 percent of voters said they would advise their legislator to keep the money in Medicaid programs.
There appeared to be broad support to keep money in Medicaid programs, with 68 percent of Republicans, 85 percent of Democrats, and 73 percent of independents saying they would advise their legislator to keep funding Medicaid.
That feeling was echoed throughout the state, with a solid majority of voters in each media market saying the Legislature keep money for Medicaid.
The highest support for keeping the cash for Medicaid came from the Jacksonville area, where 80 percent of respondents said they wanted legislators to keep money for Medicaid programs.
The Fort Myers media market — which includes Gov. Rick Scott’s hometown of Naples — had the highest percentage of people saying they should shift the funds, with 20 percent of respondents saying they would tell their lawmaker to use it for something else.