Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ administration decided this week to seek more than $1 billion in extra Medicaid money that was made available through the American Rescue Plan Act, federal legislation that not a single Florida Republican voted for when it was passed in March.
So maybe it’s not too surprising that the Governor and his administration did not issue a single press release this week announcing Florida had submitted an application to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeking the additional funds.
The decision to apply for a boost in federal funds for a wide array of Medicaid-backed home- and community-based services was first reported by The News Service of Florida on Monday.
The governor’s office kept the request for the additional funds on the down low, as did the state Agency for Health Care Administration. The agency submitted the application on behalf of the state late Monday. Instead of announcing the news in a press release, the agency posted a link to the application on its website.
Still, it’s a big deal — a really big deal — and advocates for poor, elderly and disabled people who had been clamoring for the administration to avail itself of a two-year windfall were thrilled.
This week’s action marks the second substantial move by Republicans this year to seek a boost in federal Medicaid money. House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican, signed onto extending by ten months the length of time that Medicaid benefits are available to postpartum women. The funds were also made possible by the federal stimulus package signed by President Joe Biden in March.
Taken together, Republican leaders’ decisions this year are a departure from former Gov. Rick Scott‘s actions. During his eight-year tenure as governor, Scott — now a U.S. Senator — often rejected offers of extra federal money in high-profile areas such as health care.
Some people would like to interpret the slight turnaround by Florida’s GOP leaders as a precursor to the full-blown Medicaid expansion allowed under federal law, as Florida remains one of 12 states that continues to hold out on the additional funds. But, given the continued animus toward Obamacare, it seems highly unlikely the Republican-led Legislature will take the plunge to go that far.
Still, Medicaid expansion could be a point of contention during the 2022 Governor’s race. Two Democrats challenging DeSantis — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Congressman Charlie Crist — already have said they will push to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income childless adults.
Crist has even said, as he did in his unsuccessful 2014 bid to unseat Scott, that he would expand Medicaid to low-income childless adults without legislative approval.
But the issue will be more of a balancing act on the 2022 gubernatorial campaign trail.
Even without a press release announcing the news, the DeSantis campaign can now point to its decision to draw down additional federal Medicaid money and target it to some of the state’s most vulnerable populations — elderly persons and people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Republished with permission of The News Service of Florida.