Florida’s GOP-Controlled House Refuses Medicaid Expansion, Halts Legislative Session Early

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Florida’s GOP-Controlled House Refuses Medicaid Expansion, Halts Legislative Session Early

Nina Liss-Schultz

The Florida state legislature’s battle over whether to expand Medicaid took a turn Tuesday as lawmakers in the Republican-controlled house ended this year’s session three days early, leaving unfinished the state’s multibillion dollar budget and dozens of bills.

The Florida state legislature’s battle over whether to expand Medicaid took a turn Tuesday as lawmakers in the Republican-controlled house ended this year’s session three days early, leaving unfinished the state’s multibillion-dollar budget and dozens of bills.

Calling the session to a close, Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said that “we didn’t get everything we wanted, and we won’t get everything that we hoped, but we have done all that we can do for this session.”

He told the house, controlled by Republicans who have long opposed Medicaid expansion, to adjourn “until the senate decides they are ready to negotiate” on the health-care law.

The state senate in March approved a bill, SB 7044, to accept federal Medicaid dollars for the expansion of private insurance coverage to adults making between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

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That change would have given health insurance to nearly one million Floridians, according to state estimates.

Shortly after the house session was closed, Gov. Rick Scott filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration alleging it is trying to coerce Florida into expanding Medicaid.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) told Florida officials this year that it would not continue to fund the state’s Low-Income Pool health-care program—which reimburses Florida hospitals for treating uninsured patients—because those patients would otherwise receive health insurance through an expanded Medicaid. The federal government would foot most of the bill for expanding the program.

Scott, who during his campaign for governor lambasted the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, came out in favor of expansion in early 2013. He reversed his position a second time in April, citing a reluctance to accept money the federal government “could scale back or walk away from.”

Scott said in a statement that “President Obama’s sudden end to the Low Income Pool (LIP) health care program to leverage us for Obamacare is illegal and a blatant overreach of executive power.”

Scott, a former hospital executive whose company paid more than $600 million in fines for defrauding Medicare, has said low-income Floridians losing health-care coverage is a “federal problem” that the state should not address.

The state house and senate can call a special session in order to agree to a state budget, which must be decided by June 30.

But dozens of other bills were automatically killed by the house’s decision to adjourn early. Among them was a Department of Corrections package on prison reform.

The house did, however, manage to pass at least one anti-choice bill before going home. HB 633, approved by the senate on Monday, will require that people seeking abortions meet with their physician in person at least 24 hours before the procedure.

“Nobody won today,” said Republican Senate President Andy Gardiner on Tuesday. “Nobody won. Taxpayers lost. It’s an unfortunate turn of events.”