Democrats lobby Florida Legislature to expand Medicaid, grab new federal dollars under COVID-19 relief bill

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The American Rescue Plan added new incentives for states to expand Medicaid.

Florida Democrats and health care advocates are pushing the GOP-controlled Legislature to take advantage of new federal incentives to expand Medicaid in Florida.

Joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch and state Sen. Annette Taddeo argued Florida should make the move more than a decade after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law.

The new American Rescue Plan offers multiple relief measures for families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as a $1,400 stimulus check and expanded unemployment benefits. But the COVID-19 relief package also contains several sections related to health care, and specifically the ACA.

Prior to the COVID-19 bill’s passage, the federal government offered to pay for up to 90% of new Medicaid costs for states adopting Medicaid expansion. The remainder of the cost would be left to the state.

A new provision in the American Rescue Plan provides even more federal dollars to encourage Medicaid expansion in any state that has not already expanded those benefits. Florida is one of 12 states that falls into that bucket. The additional federal dollars would trickle in for two years, and could cover another 5% of costs for people covered.

“The American Rescue Plan…has allowed us to go well beyond what the Affordable Care Act provided so we can reach more Americans,” Becerra said, thanking Deutch, Taddeo and other Democrats for backing Medicaid expansion over the years.

“Your leaders from the state of Florida have been there every step of the way,” he added.

The new COVID-19 relief bill also expands subsidies available to individuals who sign up for health insurance under the ACA marketplace.

“The American Rescue Plan lowers health insurance premiums for millions of American families,” Deutch explained. “A family of four making $90,000 could see their monthly premiums come down by $200 a month.”

But Medicaid expansion remains the main focus of Democrats as they continue to tout the benefits of the new COVID-19 relief package.

“I don’t know what Republicans are looking at when they deny coverage to hard-working Floridians,” Deutch said.

“The Affordable Care Act has been a lifeline to Americans as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’re still leaving too many people behind. So last spring, when millions of workers and dependents lost job-based coverage because of the virus, our community took note. And even as our economy has recovered, many still don’t have coverage and that’s why Congress passed the historic American Rescue Plan.”

Taddeo has repeatedly introduced bills in the Republican-controlled Legislature to move forward with Medicaid expansion in the state. Those efforts have consistently failed.

Taddeo is backing another version (SJR 276) in this year’s Session — which runs through the end of April. Though Republicans are once again likely to rebuff those efforts due to the costs associated with expansion, Taddeo said the COVID-19 outbreak should change the GOP’s thinking.

“The time is totally now to do this,” she argued. “We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. People need health care. We don’t need to have 800,000 Floridians without health care.”

And Taddeo also pointed to other GOP-run states that have opted into Medicaid expansion as potential models for Florida.

“Deep-red, conservative states such as Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah expanded Medicaid,” she noted. “Have any of them said, ‘Ooh, we made a mistake. Let’s go back?'”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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