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State Senate Panel Rejects Medicaid Expansion

PHOTO: State Sen. Joe Negron
PHOTO: State Sen. Joe Negron

March 12, 2013 | WMFE - A Florida Senate panel has joined its House counterpart in rejecting an expansion of Medicaid under the Federal health care law. The Senate panel also proposed an alternative option for insuring people who would have otherwise qualified for Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.

In a 7-to-4 party line vote, the Senate Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act shut the door on an expansion of Medicaid.

But, Committee Chairman Senator Joe Negron, a Republican from Stuart, is putting forth an alternative plan to cover roughly the same group of people who would have otherwise been covered under the Medicaid expansion.

Sen. Negron wants to allow uninsured adults and families into the Florida Healthy Kids program. That’s an insurance exchange funded by federal and state dollars that offers subsidized, managed-care style plans for low-income children.

“I think this is us trying to solve a problem.” Negron says. “The problem is we have millions of people who go to work every day but can’t afford health insurance for themselves or their families so we want to find a creative way to help people and empower people to have their own private health insurance but not put them into the Medicaid program.”     

Senate Democrats released a statement supporting Negron’s alternative. The state could potentially tap into the same pot of money it would have used to expand Medicaid under the federal health law, and Democrats say the plan achieves the same goal of covering more people.

Longtime Tallahassee lobbyist Karen Woodall, of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, supported the Medicaid Expansion but says Negron’s plan is a viable alternative.

“It’s a movement forward.” Woodall says. “We have to have the discussion. A loss for both sides would be to say ‘Hell no, we won’t go, end of discussion’ and I belief the conversation will continue.”   

House Speaker Will Weatherford issued a statement supporting the exploration of an alternative system.

Expanding Medicaid was deeply unpopular with Republicans and Governor Rick Scott angered his conservative base when he endorsed it.

Shortly after the Senate vote, Scott issued a statement saying he’s confident the legislature will quote “Do the right thing” and find a way to protect taxpayers and the uninsured. The alternative option would still have to clear the full legislature and could be subject to federal approval.



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