One week after a Senate committee rejected an Affordable Care Act provision to extend Medicaid to 1 million uninsured Floridians, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart offered an alternative to provide those individuals with private insurance using the same pot of federal money.
Nearly three weeks after a House committee rejected Medicaid expansion, that chamber has offered nothing but criticism of Sen. Negron’s proposal for using federal money.
Florida, though, doesn’t have the money it would cost to insure the mostly single, childless adults who would qualify for coverage under Medicaid expansion. Legislators would be foolish to reject the estimated $51 billion the federal government would give the state over the next 10 years. So if they aren’t going to expand Medicaid because of the Republican-dominated Legislature’s hatred of all things Obama, they should embrace Sen. Negron’s plan that uses the private markets the GOP adores.
What Sen. Negron calls “Healthy Florida” would use the state’s Healthy Kids program to enroll those newly eligible for coverage into private insurance plans. Enrollees would pay a small premium. Healthy Kids provides coverage for children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford private insurance. Families pay a $15 to $20 premium.
Like Medicaid, Healthy Kids is a state and federally funded program. It awards contracts to private insurers and outsources the administrative functions. Executive Director Rich Robleto said the infrastructure is in place to handle Healthy Florida.
Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, is chairman of the House committee that rejected Medicaid expansion. He said the House is planning an alternative — no date has been set for its release, and the session is nearly half over — but the chamber does not want to use federal money. “The biggest difference,” Rep. Corcoran said, “is certainly funding.”
He’s right. There’s a huge difference between a “Florida plan” for which there is no Florida money and a plan that leverages billions in federal aid.
Rep. Corcoran proposes using Florida Health Choices. The Legislature established it in 2008 to provide an insurance marketplace for small businesses. It signed up only five insurers last month — five years later — and is just beginning to operate. Hardly a good track record.
Republicans talk big when it comes to their disdain for Washington, but silently accept Washington’s checks. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and other Medicaid haters voted for budgets in 2009 and 2010 that relied on nearly $10 billion in federal stimulus money.
“If people are going to stand up and say don’t accept any federal dollars, then I hope they will stand up and say don’t accept any federal dollars for transportation,” said Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. “Don’t accept any federal dollars for the existing Medicaid plan.”
That’s not going to happen. Neither is a health insurance plan that relies solely on state money. Since House members have produced no good ideas, they should follow the Senate’s lead.
for The Post Editorial Board.