They may be on opposite sides of the aisle in Tallahassee, but State Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) and State Representative Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) say they’re on the same page when it comes to figuring out a health care funding solution for Florida the next time the Legislature meets.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to go forward,” said Bean, the Senate Health Policy Chief, during an appearance on WJCT’s First Coast Connect.
After meeting in special session (because the regular session ended early in a meltdown over health care funding) lawmakers adjourned for the year without expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance for about 800,000 low-income Floridians.
However, federal funds for the Low Income Pool (LIP) that funds hospital indigent care, are expected to decline by another $400 million next year, upping the ante for an eventual fix.
“The price tag will continue to go up,” said Jones, ranking member of the House Health and Human Services Committee. “We have an opportunity for us to sit down and say, now is the time. We need to recognize that we aren’t sitting around with pots of money that are overflowing to the point that we don’t need the dollars from the federal government. Let’s come to the table again, with a true heart of saying we are going to walk away with a win-win. Unless they are willing to do that, we will end up in the same predicament we were in before.”
By “they,” Jones was ostensibly referring to the Florida House, which was not on board with Bean and the Senate’s Medicaid expansion bill known as FHIX. It had job and education requirements, and would have extended health insurance to low-income working participants for as little as $25 a month. Only four Republicans in the House voted in favor of the measure.
Bean, who had floated the idea of a joint health care committee going into the 2016 session, says until pressure mounts on House legislators, movement on the issue will be challenging. “I don’t see a change. The players are going to remain largely intact. Next year the price goes up as we wean off federal funds, it’s going to cost us three-quarters of a billion next year and the following year it’s all up to us. Maybe if the numbers change and every time we put state dollars in the pot that’s less money we can spend on projects like education or roads. The numbers will get bigger and the pressure will ratchet up, so we’ve got to come up with an idea,” he said.
Jones saluted Bean for his work on the issue, and he returned the favor, lauding her epic seven-hour debate on the House floor during the Medicaid fight.
“It was not Republican Senator Bean and Democratic Representative Jones on opposite sides, we stood together,” Jones said.