The Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, announced yesterday that he would support a limited, 3-year expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, reversing a previous position. The federal government pays 100% of the costs, which protects state taxpayers and the uninsured in Florida, Gov. Scott said.

Governor Scott said, “While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care. We will support a three-year expansion of our Medicaid program under the new healthcare law, as long as the federal government meets their commitment to pay 100 percent of the cost during this time. This legislation would sunset after three years and need to be reauthorized.

There are no perfect options. Our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying healthcare to our citizens or using federal funding to help some of the poorest in our state with the Medicaid program as we explore other healthcare reforms.

Expanding access to Medicaid services for three years is a compassionate, common sense step forward. It is not the end of our work to improve healthcare. And, it is not a white flag of surrender to government-run healthcare. I am committed to working every day to improve access to affordable, high-quality healthcare in Florida, while also protecting taxpayers and keeping our economy growing to create more jobs – which ultimately fuels the dreams of every Florida family.”

Rick Scott is the seventh GOP governor to subscribe to the Medicaid expansion program. Others include Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Ohio Governor John Kasich. So far, approximately twenty-five governors have expressed support.

Accepting federal dollars to expand the Medicaid program in Florida would benefit not only 1.8 million people in the state, but would also create 71,300 new jobs in 2016 “across the spectrum of Florida’s economy”, a new report explained. The report was issued shortly before Governor Scott’s announcement.

The report, titled “Florida’s Economy Will Benefit from Expanding Medicaid”, released by Families USA and Florida CHAIN, highlights a wide range of economic and health care benefits that would come to Florida if it took part in the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.

Families USA is the national, non-profit and non-partisan organization for health care consumers. Florida CHAIN is a statewide consumer health advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health of all Floridians by promoting access to affordable, quality health care.

The authors say “The report is based on the general guidelines for Medicaid expansion under the reform law: While the federal government now pays 58 percent of the cost of the current Medicaid program, it will pay all the costs of expanded coverage the first three years of the program, 2014 to 2016, and its share will then only decrease to 90 percent by 2020. In 2016, an estimated additional $4.9 billion in Medicaid dollars would be spent on health care in Florida.”

Although it is called a Medicaid “expansion”, it is in fact a national standardization of eligibility which brings in people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level, as well as making single people or childless couples eligible for Medicaid in states where they were not otherwise eligible.

The addition of 71,300 new job vacancies in 2016 in Florida, which had an unemployment rate of 8% in 2012, would be one of many benefits resulting from an injection of federal dollars to expand Medicaid in the state.

According to the report, the Medicaid expansion would also result in the following benefits:

  • Boost the economy – economic activity is projected to increase in Florida by $8.9 billion in 2016 as a result of increased federal funding and new jobs.
  • Spending on state-funded health care programs for the uninsured by the state would be reduced. Approximately 30% of the cost of uncompensated care is paid for by the states and localities. Florida could save $1.3 billion in such costs from 2013 to 2022, according to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • Florida’s health care system would be strengthened. The state’s hospitals absorbed approximately $3 billion in costs in 2009 for providing free care to uninsured individuals, according to the Florida Hospital Association. If the number of residents who receive Medicaid were increased, costs would go down – this would strengthen the health care system in Florida.
  • Uncompensated care costs that are passed on to consumers and businesses would be reduced. Some of these costs are passed on to insurance companies, which in turn pass them onto businesses and families by raising premiums.

    Family health insurance premiums were $1,017 higher in 2008 because of uncompensated care costs, Families USA reports. If the number of uninsured people in Florida were reduced, those cost shifts would also go down.

  • State revenue would go up. More jobs and business activity mean more income tax is paid, as well as sales tax. This additional income may offset the state’s own cost for a Medicaid expansion.
  • Floridians would become more productive and healthier. “Almost two million Floridians will now have access to affordable health coverage, an essential step to healthier lives and a gain for Florida,” the authors wrote.

Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, said:

“The Medicaid expansion is a win-win-win proposition for the people of Florida. It would reduce the number of people who can’t afford health care, it will increase the number of jobs throughout the state, and it will strengthen the state’s economy.”

Laura Goodhue, Executive Director of Florida CHAIN, said:

“Being able to see a family doctor is a basic human need and a human right, and expanding Medicaid is a far better way for families to get health care than having to go to an emergency room. By taking part in this expansion of Medicaid, Florida can open the door to quality health care for more than a million Floridians, including childless adults who have been locked out of the private market because of previous illness or because they can’t afford it. Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do morally and economically for Florida.”

Why did the report use 2016 as a model? – funds for Medicaid expansion will be available to states in 2014. However, it will take time before the full economic benefit is felt, because enrollment is a gradual process.

Written by Christian Nordqvist