Gov. Ron DeSantis said 10 days ago that “we’re not rolling back” Florida’s economic reopening, despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.
But actions speak louder than words.
Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears on Friday ordered bars to stop allowing customers to consume alcohol on the premises. The dramatic action was ordered shortly after the state posted new data showing the number of coronavirus infections had gone up by nearly 9,000 cases in one day, setting a new record almost doubling the previous daily high number of positive cases.
As Florida continues to deal with the pandemic, the state has signed onto a legal brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare.” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody joined Texas and 16 other states that are arguing the federal law should be wiped out completely.
The elimination of Obamacare could have a significant impact in Florida. Even though the state did not expand Medicaid as allowed under ACA, Florida residents use the federal health-insurance exchange included in the law more than any other state. About 1.9 million Floridians used the federal exchange for insurance coverage in 2020.
Also, prior to Obamacare, Florida insurance law did not require insurers to sell plans to people with pre-existing conditions, a feature of ACA that is popular with Americans. Florida lawmakers in 2019 agreed, however, to put some protections into state law, in case the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal health-care mandate.
But the protections the Florida Legislature passed last year pale in comparison to those in the federal law. Florida law requires that all health insurers and HMOs licensed in the state be required to offer at least one policy to people with pre-existing conditions. The state law doesn’t include any price protections for consumers, though.
In other news, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report on the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in the report is a recommendation that Congress change when and how the federal government increases funding to the Medicaid program during economic downturns and recessions.
Medicaid is funded jointly by the state and federal governments. The federal share — known as the “Federal Medical Assistance Percentage,” or FMAP — cannot be altered without legislative action, which can slow things down.
The GAO recommends that, in lieu of congressional action, an automatic temporary increase in the FMAP be triggered if 26 states experience a two-month increase in their employment-to-population, or EPOP, ratio. The EPOP ratio compares the number of employed persons in a state to the working-age population aged 16 and older. Conversely, the GAO recommends that the temporary increase in the FMAP expire once 26 states experience a two-month uptick in their economies and the rate of EPOP declines.
The GAO first made the recommendation for an automatic trigger in a 2011 report that tracked funding associated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
According to the 2011 report, had the automatic trigger been in effect during the 2008 recession, states would have seen an FMAP increase between January 2008 and September 2011.
But instead, states actually received increased FMAP funds between October 2008 and June 2011. In addition to changing how it’s triggered, the 2011 GAO report recommended that targeted increased assistance be calculated based on increases in the state’s unemployment rate and reductions in total wages and salaries.
When Congress increased the FMAP in 2007 and again in 2019, it appropriated an across-the-board increase that treated all states the same.
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.