TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Look for Florida businesses to put increasing pressure on state lawmakers this summer to take action on expanding Medicaid.
A lot of businesses will face steep federal fines starting in 2014 if their employees are forced to get health coverage through a federal health exchange.
For every full-time employee who enrolls in the exchange, a company can be fined $2,000.
It's estimated Florida businesses will face at least $150 million in fines per year.
Those fines could be wiped away if Florida decides to accept billions of dollars from the federal government to expand Medicaid.
State lawmakers could not reach a deal on Medicaid last spring.
But health insurance advocate Karen Woodall of the Center for Economic and Fiscal Policy thinks businesses facing big fines in 2014 will push for a special legislative session later this year.
"I think those businesses are starting to push harder. The business community for the most part was supportive during the session but everybody had other irons in the fire so they couldn't focus on it. As more and more people are looking at 2014 being close, they're starting to pay attention to what it's going to cost them."
Woodall says businesses would not only avoid fines under an expansion of Medicaid, their employees would also get a guaranteed health benefit.
"It's a money issue for these employers and it would actually generate over $14 billion over ten years in a guaranteed employee benefit to workers with the state only having to pay about $67 million a year."
About 400,000 Florida workers earn between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level and would qualify for health coverage under an expansion of Medicaid. But since the Legislature failed to act on the issue, those employees are eligible to enter the federal health exchange and consequently could trigger fines for their employers.
The Florida House led by Speaker Will Weatherford opposed the option of accepting federal cash to expand Medicaid because of concerns that the feds might not deliver on its promise to pay 100 percent of the cost during the first three years of the program and 90 percent in subsequent years.