Senate Democrats back GOP effort to extend Medicaid for new mothers

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Democrats also say the Legislature should further expand benefits for all low-income Floridians.

The Senate Democratic Caucus is getting behind a push by GOP House Speaker Chris Sprowls to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income mothers up to a full year after they give birth.

But Democrats are also pushing Republicans to act on broader Medicaid expansion. Wednesday, Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer and Democratic Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation issued a statement supporting Sprowls’ push, while also tacking on a request to consider a more comprehensive proposal.

“We were very encouraged by the Speaker’s progressive announcement to expand Medicaid maternal benefits to low-income pregnant women,” the Senators wrote Wednesday.

“This is a wonderful first step in putting Floridians’ tax dollars to work for Floridians’ health care. And we hope the Governor and the Senate President follow suit. Sen. Book’s SB 238, which would revise Medicaid eligibility for postpartum women, is still awaiting its first committee hearing. But we can and should go so much further. By fully expanding Medicaid, we would not only ensure health care during pregnancy, but health care for all stages in the lives of the working poor in Florida.”

As the statement recognizes, back in December, Book filed a bill expanding Medicaid coverage for eligible new moms for up to a year. Democratic Rep. Kamia Brown is behind the House companion measure (HB 645).

Republicans are reportedly leaning toward using the budget process to implement the expansion rather than adopting the bills from Book and Brown.  The House appears to be spurred on by the federal American Rescue Plan. The COVID-19 relief package backed by Joe Biden provides federal funds to encourage states to expand Medicaid coverage for expectant mothers for up to one year. Federal law only requires states to offer that coverage for up to 60 days.

In a statement announcing her original bill, Book explained the benefits of the expanded maternity measure.

“By extending critical postpartum care and providing access to milk bank services, we can get these moms and their babies off to a healthy start, reduce future reliance on services, and improve outcomes across the lifespan,” Book said.

The American Rescue Plan also boosts federal funding for a broader Medicaid expansion for two years. That has led top Florida Democrats to pressure Republicans to finally adopt Medicaid expansion more than a decade after the Affordable Care Act became law. It’s unlikely Republicans will play ball with that request.

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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