Health Florida House Debates Medicare Expansion

Florida House Debates Medicare Expansion

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The Florida House today is to take up an amendment to its proposed health-care budget to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Florida’s current budget proposal includes more than $500 million in cuts to Medicaid. But with passage of the American Rescue Plan, the state can get $2.5 billion to $3 billion in federal dollars to support Medicaid expansion – double the projected budget shortfall.

Scott Darius, executive director of Florida Voices for Health, said it’s already harder to qualify for Medicaid in Florida than in most states.

“One-point-one million Floridians, most of whom are working, don’t have any affordable options for health care,” he said, “so Medicaid expansion is the biggest opportunity we have to bridge that gap for people who don’t have access to care, but are working very hard and contributing to the Florida economy.”

Expanding Medicaid could bring coverage to Floridians who make slightly more than $30,000 a year for a family of three. Opponents of expansion have insisted it would be too costly, but Darius asserted that the change would save the state $200 million a year with the influx of federal dollars and a healthier population.

Medicaid expansion would qualify about 1 million more Floridians for coverage. Darius noted that half of Floridians suffer from chronic diseases, and said he believes the state isn’t doing enough to help those individuals.

The focus of a new federal COVID relief package has now shifted to the U.S. Senate.

“In a lot of different ways, both in access and health outcomes related to specific health issues, Florida is lagging behind significantly,” he said, “and this is our first real opportunity to address that in a very real way.”

Beyond Medicaid expansion, he added, his organization hopes also to make strides in lowering the cost of care for Floridians, especially on high-priced prescription drugs and insulin.

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