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Heated debate continues on expanding Medicaid in Florida

4:36 PM, Mar 12, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida House and Senate have made it clear they are not interested in expanding Medicaid under President Obama's version of the Affordable Care Act, but it looks as though legislative leaders will consider developing their own plan to extend health coverage to uninsured Floridians.

On Tuesday, members of the Florida Hospital Association gathered in front of the Old Capitol and called on state lawmakers to expand Medicaid coverage to an extra one million Floridians.

They said providing health insurance to more Floridians would create a healthier Florida and also boost the economy with the creation of more than 50,000 health care jobs.

Maybelline Samiel, a patient advisor at Bay Care Health Systems in Tampa, said she's seen too many people struggling because they don't qualify for Medicaid. She says it's overwhelming to tell patients with serious health problems that they make a little too much money to qualify for health coverage.

Samiel urged lawmakers to accept the federal government's extra Medicaid payments.

"The funding is already available. The first three years of the extension would be covered 100 percent by federal tax dollars. So why wouldn't we use it? We're asking to please extend health care coverage to our uninsured working Floridians."

Rep. Mike Fasano argued in support of Medicaid expansion, saying Floridians send billions of tax dollars to Washington, D.C. and it's time to get more of that cash back.

Fasano criticized lawmakers who believe Florida should create its own, alternative Medicaid proposal and pass on the federal plan.

"To hear from those in both chambers saying we're going to come up with an alternative, ladies and gentleman, that's a cop out. It's nothing more than a cop out. We should've been working on this for the last two years and instead all of a sudden now with 55 days to go, they're looking for an alternative way of covering many people in the state of Florida."

A Senate committee voted Monday against an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The vote came along party lines with Republicans arguing that Medicaid is a broken system that should not be built up with an expansion.

Rep. Fasano questioned that argument, saying the Legislature just reformed Medicaid by moving recipients into managed care. The federal government recently approved that plan last month.

"So they're saying that the program that's not even been implemented, we just got the waiver from the federal government to implement a Medicaid reform program that the Legislature and governor created two years ago, and they're saying that's broken? How can something that they reformed, that has not been fully implemented yet, how can they say it's broken? It's another excuse not to accept federal dollars and help those who need help."

Florida Hospital Association President and CEO Bruce Reuben says he doesn't care what the end product is called. He just hopes lawmakers take action to expand Medicaid coverage to more Floridians.

First Coast News

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