The difference this year? Florida is dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The GOP-controlled Legislature has repeatedly rejected past efforts to open up Medicaid to more Floridians, citing the increased costs to the state. But Jones and Duran, a pair of South Florida Democrats, are arguing the pandemic should serve as a motivator to change course.
“Rather than cutting critical services in the midst of a public health crisis, we must make smart investments in our people because it’s the fiscally, and morally, responsible thing to do,” Jones said in a Friday statement.
“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on why health care and treatment shouldn’t be tethered to employment status. We need to make sure that there are less — not more— barriers so that every Floridian can get the quality, accessible, and affordable health care they need to keep our communities safe and healthy.”
Florida is one of a handful of states that declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which Congress approved during the Barack Obama administration. Jones and Duran say the expansion would cover nearly 850,000 Floridians.
“Drawing down new federal Medicaid funds will be one of the fastest, proven-effective ways to deliver fiscal relief to Florida’s economy during this economic downturn,” Duran said.
“The new federal dollars will directly impact the health care care community, its vendors and its employees, but its economic ripples will go beyond the health care sector indirectly impacting small businesses, restaurants, gyms, personal and business services, and state and local governments.”
Those new federal dollars help pay for the program, but don’t cover all the costs. The ACA provides that if a state expands Medicaid eligibility, the federal government will foot all additional costs for the first few years. Over time, that will drop to 90% of the costs, with the state on hook for the remaining 10%.
That 10% chunk was enough to turn Republicans off to the plan, though Jones and Duran argue that ensuring Floridians are provided with health care can actually reduce costs to the state for individuals who currently seek care without any insurance.