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Lawmakers push legislation to expand Medicaid as Donald Trump moves to scale back

The Trump administration wants to cap spending.

Democrats in the House and the Senate want the state to expand Medicaid to cover more adults who otherwise cannot afford health insurance.

Florida is one of 14 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid. States that have recently expanded coverage include Idaho, Utah and Virginia.

Sen. Annette Taddeo is sponsoring a Senate Joint Resolution (SJR 224) that would expand Medicaid coverage for Floridians who are at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. If passed, the state Medicaid agency would have to submit an expansion plan to the Governor by April 1, 2021. The state would have to submit the plan to the federal government by that October. Rep. Cindy Polo is sponsoring a companion House Joint Resolution (HJR 247).

Rep. Nick Duran said not expanding Medicaid in Florida means it’s giving up millions of dollars in federal funding. He adds that Florida already makes it hard to get Medicaid. A family of three can’t earn more than $7,000 because of the income limits. 

Tallahassee resident Deborah Lloyd is a human services professional. She’s also uninsured and her savings is gone after becoming ill and needing an operation in 2018.

“Recently, I found myself without employment and thought ‘Well at least I can get insurance through open enrollment on the marketplace,” she said. “Imagine my horror to learn that I still don’t qualify for health care coverage because Florida did not take the Medicaid expansion.”

Because of changes to the Affordable Care Act as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision making Medicaid expansion optional for states, some individuals who would have qualified for Medicaid under expansion do not qualify for subsidies through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, leaving them in a new sort of doughnut hole where there is no option for discounted coverage.

Taddeo said voters should be able to vote on expanding Medicaid because lawmakers have refused to do it. There’s currently a ballot initiative to do that.

The Department of Health and Human Services under President Donald Trump‘s administration is expecting to issue guidance Thursday that will allow states to provide block grants for Medicaid funding, but that would cap state spending on Medicaid. It’s re-branding the Medicaid program as “Healthy Adult Opportunity.” It’s expected to focus on the population that would have benefited from expansion. The Trump administration also allowed states to implement work requirements, but that effort stalled after a federal judge blocked the rule from taking effect. 

Democrats are vowing to make the Medicaid issue a key talking point in the 2020 election, citing Trump’s walk-back on his commitment to protect Medicaid.

Advocates say Florida should move to expand its Medicaid population because it will save the state money and cut the uninsured rate by 29%. 

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

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