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State Requests $1.1 Billion for Home and Community Based Medicaid Services

July 15th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Florida is looking to secure an additional $1.1 billion from the federal government to bolster Medicaid funding over the next two years.

The move is being applauded by health care groups, but the request for additional federal dollars isn’t exactly the Medicaid expansion Democrats have been pushing for a decade.

The $1.1 billion request is made possible by the American Rescue Plan, which allows states to draw down 10 percent more federal dollars for home and community based Medicaid services than in previous years.

“This is really called one-time rescue money,” said Executive Director of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council Valerie Breen.

Breen said the programs help elderly and disabled populations that require services at their homes.

“What it will help with is the infrastructure of some of the huge crises that we were seeing,” said Breen.

More than $300 million will be used to cut down on lengthy waitlists to get into the programs, but Miriam Harmatz with the Florida Health Justice Project said the bulk of the funds will go to address chronic staffing shortages.

“And these are people who need a lot of help with the basic activities of daily living who were going days on end, and some living alone, with nobody coming,” said Harmatz.

Before the money can go out, it must be first approved by the federal government and then by state lawmakers.

State Senator Aaron Bean said just because the state is accepting additional federal funds for these Medicaid programs doesn’t mean lawmakers have shifted their attitude on overall Medicaid expansion.

“No one is talking about Medicaid expansion. This is one-time money to deal with a system that has been stressed, overburdened by COVID,” said Bean.

And while these dollars are a one-time deal, health care groups are pushing Florida’s federal lawmakers support making the increased funding permanent, especially considering the state’s ever growing elderly population.

Florida ranks 43rd in the nation on spending for home and community based services and last in long-term services and supports.

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House Unveils Plan to Extend Postpartum Medicaid Coverage to Tackle Mortality Disparities

March 23rd, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Black mothers are three to four times more likely to die than white mothers as a direct result of child birth or from postpartum complications.

Florida’s House Speaker has vowed to tackle the disparities and he’s now backing legislation that would extend Medicaid eligibility for postpartum care.

In Florida, nearly half of all births are covered by Medicaid, but recipients are only eligible for two months of postpartum care.

“One third to one half of maternal deaths occur in the postpartum period,” said House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

Sprowls is backing legislation that would extend coverage for the first time since 1976.

Under the $240 million plan Medicaid would cover mothers up to a year after delivery.

“We acknowledge that it won’t solve every problem. We need physicians and medical experts to play their part in educating patients and we need better career and education programs to drive Floridians to in-demand jobs where there’s healthcare coverage. We’re working on those things too in this House, but this is a step that we must take to help support an important and vulnerable population, our pregnant moms and their babies during and after their pregnancy,” said Sprowls.

The legislation has wide bipartisan backing.

“This problem impacts minority communities disproportionately,” said State Representative Kamia Brown.

Brown, a Democrat, hopes the legislation will close the racial disparity gap in maternal mortality rates.

“Extending this coverage will save lives,” said Brown.

Democrats hope this is only the beginning, another part of the puzzle is access to care.

A 2018 report revealed there were zero OB/GYNs in Gadsden County, where nearly six in ten residents are Black.

Brown is backing another bill seeking to expand Telehealth services for maternal health care in minority communities.

“We’re looking at expanding access, but also quality access. This particular bill stems to do that,” said Brown.

The speaker said he hasn’t talked with the Governor or the Senate on the Medicaid proposal.

He was careful to call the plan a Medicaid extension as opposed to an expansion, which has been long opposed by Florida Republicans.

Of the $240 million investment, $92 million will come from the state, with the Federal Government picking up the rest.

The Speaker also vowed to make the change permanent, although actions of the current Legislature cannot tie the hands of future Legislatures.

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Democrats File Medicaid Expansion Legislation

February 9th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Florida Senate Democrats have filed legislation to expand Medicaid to Florida’s working poor.

The idea has been around since 2012, but GOP lawmakers refuse to consider the expansion because it requires the state to put up a ten percent match.

This year, that would be about $80 million.

Senator Perry Thurston said that leaves Florida in the minority of states.

“Fourteen states that have failed to accept the benefits of the Federal government that’s been handed to them, handed to them on a platter. You know, here, go ahead and take care of the neediest people in your community. That’s why we’re here today. We’re here today because nine hundred thousand Floridians are being denied affordable health care,” said Thurston.

The legislation is unlikely to be considered as Florida already faces cuts to core programs to continue education and environmental funding proposed by the Governor.

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Democrats Pushing Medicaid Expansion as Key Issue in 2018 Election

June 14th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Democrats are pushing Medicaid expansion as one of key issues in the 2018 election.
They say Governor Rick Scott’s decision not to accept Federal money to expand the program has hurt Florida’s poor and left the state less healthy.
In 2013 Governor Rick Scott said he was in favor of accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid in the state under the Affordable care act, but in the end, he sided with the Florida Legislature’s rejection of the Federal aid.
“It’s according to whether it’s an election year or not as to what he has to say,” said Barbara DeVane with the National Organization for Women.
A recent report by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed Floridians without health insurance in 2017 had risen to 20%.
That means one out of five in state state aren’t covered.
“There’s a huge number of people out there who would have benefited from access and coverage under the Medicaid program,” said Karen Woodall with the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy.
A 2015 Senate proposal and opposed by Governor Scott would have provided coverage for about 800,000 of the state’s working poor.
Democrats say the lack of coverage is making Florida a sicker state.
The Commonwealth Fund ranked Florida 47th in the nation based on a study of 43 health care metrics.
Florida has also joined a multi-state lawsuit aimed at repealing certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act, including some protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.
Scott told reporters Wednesday, “If you have a pre-existing condition you need to still be able to get healthcare.”
He stopped short of denouncing the suit.
“He’s trying to have it both ways,” said Woodall. “You can’t say I believe that people with pre-existing conditions should not be denied and then support a lawsuit that will undo that.”
Democrats have launched what they call, “The Time is Now: Medicaid Expansion Tour”.
The campaign will travel the state highlighting Scott’s flip flop on Medicaid Expansion.

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Florida Legislators Want to Take Medicaid Expansion to the Voters

December 7th, 2017 by Jake Stofan
After Maine voters approved an expansion of Medicaid, a bill has been filed in the Florida Legislature to give Floridians the option to expand Medicaid coverage in the state.
Sponsors say recent polls show 70% of Floridians support the expansion. The proposal would allow people making up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level to gain access to the program. Senate Sponsor Annette Taddeo says 877,000 new Floridians would qualify if the expansion is approved.
“They fall into that gap where they actually are employed, they make a living that I wouldn’t call a good living, but not enough to buy health insurance,” said Taddeo. “So they fall into this gap where we are punishing them for working. “
Sponsors estimate the state loses $6 billion in Federal aid as a result of the state not chasing to expand Medicaid.

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Florida Pediatricians Worried GOP Donors Want Special Needs Children Off Medicaid Program

August 18th, 2017 by Jake Stofan

 

Florida pediatricians are concerned of a possible concerted effort by GOP political donors to keep low income special needs children off of a Medicaid Program known as Children’s Medical Services.

In 2015, more than 13,000 children were removed from the program as a result of a survey that was introduced to deem if a child qualified for the program or not.

The survey was later found to be misleading and is no longer used.

After extraneous efforts the Florida Department of Health sent 6,081 parents whose children were removed from CMS and put on 11 other Medicaid plans owned by private companies a letter telling them they could reapply.

An extensive report by CNN found the companies that owned the private plans the children were switched to, made significant donations to the Florida Republican Party.

Pediatricians like Dr. Louis St. Petery say the Department of Health has still been reluctant to share how many of those children actually made it back on to CMS plans.

Which, he says suggests there still might be an effort to keep some of the kids off CMS.

 

“They did send out a letter to about six thousand kids, whom in their opinion, were the only ones who didn’t make it back to CMS. We’ve asked, ‘So, you’ve sent out the letter, how many of them got back on CMS?’ No answer. There still seems to be a reluctance to actually openly discuss the issues,” said Dr. Petery.

The 11 companies cited in the CNN article contributed $8.6 million to Florida Republican Party committees from 2010 to 2014

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Governor Weighs-In on Medicaid

April 6th, 2015 by flanews

The debate over whether or not to expand the Medicaid program in Florida, something supporters say could help nearly one million people, has already made headlines, but as Matt Galka tells us, the Florida House and Senate have already drawn their lines in the sand and now the Governor is picking sides.

 

Governor Rick Scott was urging lawmakers to accept federal money and expand Medicaid in Florida just two years ago.

“I cannot in good conscience deny the uninsured access to care,” said Gov. Rick Scott in March of 2013.

On Monday it was a different story. The Governor put out a statement reversing course.  He cited that with the federal LIP program – which provides money to hospitals treating low income patients – ending, it would be tough for Florida to rely on the feds to fund expansion. Athena Smith Ford with Florida CHAIN says it’s a road block.

“It would be more encouraging, certainly, to see this just get done right away, but we’ve always known that this was going to be a campaign,” she said.

The Governor’s statement puts him on the same page with the Florida House. The House and Senate are at odds over expanding the program.  The Senate is backing a proposal that would expand Medicaid but require recipients to have jobs or pay premiums. House Speaker in waiting Richard Corcoran summed up the House’s stance last week.

“Here’s my message to the Senate. They want us to come dance? We’re not dancing. We’re not dancing this session, we’re not dancing next session, we’re not dancing next summer. We’re not dancing,” said Rep. Corcoran.

Senate President Andy Gardiner released his own statement Monday.  He said that his chamber will continue pushing for expansion – but without Federal money of some kind – all parts of the budget would be impacted. A bad sign for tax cuts, which is one of the Governor’s top priorities.

The LIP funding program expires in June, and both members in the House and Senate say some sort of agreement or compromise needs to be made soon in order for session to end on time on May 1st.

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Senate Inches Closer to Medicaid Expansion

March 10th, 2015 by flanews

Florida has so far been stubborn about not accepting $50 billion dollars of federal money to expand Medicaid in the state, but as Matt Galka tells us, the Florida Senate is rethinking that stance.

It was standing room only in the Florida Senate’s Health policy meeting.  50 billion dollars of federal healthcare money was on the line in the form of a Medicaid expansion proposal that could help almost a million low-income Floridians.

“This is something that we need to do, because people are suffering for the lack of adequate affordable quality healthcare,” said Tampa Democratic Senator Arthenia Joyner.

Florida is at risk of losing more than a billion dollars of federal low income pool funding. That money goes towards hospitals treating the uninsured or underinsured. That has led to the Senate’s proposal of a state-run insurance exchange for low-income Floridians – as long as they work, attend school, or pay premiums.

Sen. Aaron Bean/(R) Health Policy Committee Chair

“We have to look at options to keep our hospitals open, a lot of our healthcare systems that depend on this low income pool money to figure out how we’re going to survive providing healthcare for our most needy and our most vulnerable citizens,” said Sen. Aaron Bean (R – Jacksonville).

But the expansion proposal has always been a tough sell in the Florida House.

Former Republican House Speaker Tom Feeney – who now heads business lobby group Associated Industries of Florida – says he’s hoping for an about face from the other chamber.

“Our view is that the House and the conservative leadership oughta do like Mike Pence, the conservative Governor of Indiana did. A consumer based, choice based plan,” said Feeney.

But not everyone’s on board. James Madison Institute President Bob McClure says if the feds are going to pull other health funding, they can just as soon pull this funding down the road.

“They’re not reliable for a proven source of funding for the state that’s been in place for years, why would we double down on that and take an additional and count on them to fund an additional 50 billion dollars,” he said.

If the state doesn’t accept it, it goes toward other states that do expand Medicaid.

The proposal passed unanimously out of the committee. We did ask the Governor if he supported the measure, but he was non-committal saying that there was still a lot of time left in this year’s session.

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‘A Healthy Florida Works’ Plans to Expand Medicaid

December 8th, 2014 by flanews

Around 1 million people in the state are left out when it comes to healthcare coverage. As Matt Galka tells us, there are plenty of backers pushing a new effort that would tap in to federal money.

Medicaid expansion has failed to take off in Florida since it first became available in 2012.  Republican lawmakers have opposed federal money and have tried to distance themselves from the President’s Affordable Care Act. 2015 could be a different story.

A Healthy Florida Works is trying to provide an alternative that sways conservatives.  The plan would tap into the 5 billion dollars a year of federal money currently available which could help cover 1 million Floridians.

The compromise is that it would require monthly premiums to be paid as well as mandate recipients search for work or job training. Multiple business groups are backing it. Damien Filer with Progress Florida says the bottom line is people without coverage need it .

“I think there are a lot of different ways that we can get there, the important thing is that we’re taking a first step and this is a very meaningful one, so I think this is very encouraging that this is happening,” said Filer.

Even though there’s plenty of momentum behind the program, lawmakers here just last month didn’t sound as optimistic. New Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli seemed to indicate his chamber wouldn’t change their ways.

“We believe, we stand firm, where we believe we are right now and that’s without expansion,” he said.

But there’s still plenty of time to change minds between now and March…when 2015’s legislative session will start.

27 states have accepted expansion money from the government.  Only four other states have done so with a separate plan form the Affordable Care Act and Florida could become the fifth.

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The Medicaid Expansion that no one Mentions

March 17th, 2014 by flanews

Democrats are hoping a push to expand Medicaid to more than a million Floridians has some legs for the remainder of legislative session. Lawmakers are concerned the state is pumping money into the system and getting nothing in return

Florida Senate Democrats are asking questions about Medicaid expansion.

“I call this the ‘what if’ press conference,” said Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood).

As in “what if they were able to use Federal money available to the state?”

“$470 million dollars we’re talking about. $470 million dollars in general revenue this year available for Medicaid expansion,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith.

Expanding the program would cover more than one million working poor residents in the state and free up taxpayer money currently going into the federal system, but not coming back to Florida.

The Senate Democrats brought charts that outlined where the Medicaid expansion money could go. They touted programs like springs restoration, criminal justice, and K through 12 education.

The Senate voted to accept the federal dollars in the 2013 annual session. The measure was killed in the House.

“If we do nothing, if we continue to play politics as usual, Florida’s environment will continue to degrade,” said Sen. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee).

Orlando Representative Joe Saunders, who supports expansion, isn’t confident his chamber will decide to accept the money this year.

“I worry that we’re going to see more of the same. I’m hoping over the next few weeks there’s still time. Hankies haven’t dropped and we’re still in session,” said Rep. Saunders.

A House bill and Senate bill have both been filed to accept federal money. The legislation has yet to be heard by any committees. Democrats picked the right day to hold their news conference – House and Senate Appropriations committees will put the finishing touches on their budgets this week.

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Medicaid Mayhem

May 1st, 2013 by flanews

There is chaos in the Florida House. Democrats are using the little authority they have to slow down the process. They’ve joined together to have every bill read in full and they’re turning every debate into a conversation about Medicaid expansion. As Whitney Ray tells us, House leadership is using technology to thwart their efforts.

A guard stood watch over the Florida House Wednesday. The Chamber was locked and a machine read legislation in fast forward. Democrats hijacked every debate.

“And so today you are playing the game with us and we are going back and forth and that’s unfortunate,” said Rep. Jim Waldman.

The battle was sparked after the Florida House refused to accept federal money to expand Medicaid. With just a few days to go until the end of session they’re pulling out all the stops.

“We will use any tools we can just like you used them in committees,” said Waldman in debate.

State Democrats are getting help from Washington. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz is at the state capitol pushing for the expansion.

“If at the end of the day, if the end of this week comes and goes and the Republicans in Tallahassee refuse to insure a million more Floridians then they will have sickness, illness and death,” said Shultz.

The Senate passed a plan to accept federal money to expand Medicaid and offer coverage to million more Floridians. Governor Rick Scott is also backing the expansion but Shultz is pressing him to take a more active role.

“It’s time for him to get off the sidelines, either he is for accepting those funds and is willing to use his clout and his weight and put the full weight of his office behind that position or he’s not,” said Shultz.

With little time left before the end of session, talks of a fall session to address the issue are emerging. The senate has passed a Medicaid Expansion plan, but there’s still no sign from the House that they’ll take action.

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House Committee Adopts Medicaid Alternative

April 20th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda

Increased health care for up to a million Floridians remains up in the air tonight as legislators in Tallahassee push drastically different plans. The end result could be no additional coverage for anyone.

 

Under a plan being pushed by the state House, 113,000 low income Floridians would pay a 25 dollar monthly co-pay for private insurance. A plan favored by the Governor and State Senate, would cover ten times more people. It’s funded completely by the federal government for the first three years. But it is that federal funding where House Republicans are drawing the line.

Rep. Charles McBurney R-Jacksonville, told the panel “What the government giveth, the government taketh away.”  Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, called the Feds record into question “Furthermore the federal government does have a demonstrated check record of being an unreliable funding partner.”

In pushing for the larger coverage, Democrats made a reference to Boston, where first responders rushed to a crisis. Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg says Florida should be rushing to solve a health care crisis. “We lend a helping hand. That’s what America is all about” said Rouson.

Despite the plea the committee shut down the federal money plan on a party line vote.

Rep. Mia Jones,  D-Jacksonville, says the GOP is still angry they lost the election “It’s really not about providing coverage under those plans, it’s simply about saying no to the Affordable Care Act.”The decision not to take federal money sets up a very real possibility the lawmakers could leave the State Capitol in two weeks and do absolutely nothing to expand health care.

Doing nothing says House Speaker Will Weatherford, would be profitable to taking federal money. “If it’s taking federal money that we can’t count on going home, I think we would prefer to go home” Weatherford said in an exclusive interview.

The plan being pushed by the House Speaker, gives eligible enrollees two thousand dollars to buy coverage of their choice. The House plan does not cover single, childless adults, which is one of the major differences from the Medicaid expansion favored by the Governor.  His plan also saves the state an estimated 430 million dollars on money it now spends on the medically needy program.

 

 

 

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Tale of Two Medicaids

April 9th, 2013 by flanews

Pressure for state lawmakers to accept federal money to expand Medicaid is mounting. Young adults who are too old for Medicaid and too poor to buy their own coverage are in Tallahassee asking for help. As Whitney Ray tells us, they’re caught in the coverage gap.

It’s a tale of two Medicaids. Donya Marshall’s daughter Chloe has DiGeorge Syndrome. She and her husband both work. Both have insurance, but they still can’t pay Chloe’s medical bills. So Medicaid does.

“Without Medicaid in our lives we would not have been able to take her to so many appointments so many times a week,” said Donya.

Then there’s Geosel Robles. Geo has Muscular Dystrophy. He works. He goes to college. He recently celebrated a bitter birthday.

“On his 18th birthday he got a birthday cake, but he lost his insurance,” said Dr. Britt Stroud with Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Until last year Medicaid paid for Geo’s treatment. Now, without health insurance he can’t afford to visit the doctor.

Geo: You’re feeling bad because you don’t know what’s going on.
Reporter: So you live with that uncertainty every day?
Geo: Everyday man, but I’m not going to let it keep me down. I have goals.

Tuesday at the state capitol doctors told stories about young adults caught in the gap. They’re covered by Medicaid until they’re 18, then they’re on their own.

“When we transition the children in to adult services we have a similar situations like Geosel has explained to you,” said Dr. Daniel Plasencia.

The doctors and patients form the Florida Remedy Coalition. They’re asking state lawmakers to expand Medicaid and close the coverage gap. And with just a few weeks left in session the pressure’s mounting on lawmakers to accept the cash. The Senate has devises a plan to take the money. Now all eyes are on the House.

Geo hopes the House comes through but he’s pushing forward regardless. While MD tears down his body, Geo’s focused on sharpening his mind. He wants to be a lawyer.

The Senate plan would allow private insurers to take the Medicaid money to extent coverage. Florida’s House Speaker now says he’s open to alternative plans but still worries about what will happen when the federal money runs dry.

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UF Medicaid Expansion Study

March 29th, 2013 by flanews

Expanding Medicaid in Florida could create more than 100-thousand jobs according to a revised report from a University of Florida Researcher. Dr. Alan Hodges says if Florida accepts the 50 billion federal dollars to expand Medicaid, not only will jobs be added in the health care sector, but construction, manufacturing and other professions will also benefit. Hodges says the 121-thousand jobs created would be high paying, steady jobs.

“They are going to have an average salary of 57-thousand a year and overall all jobs in the state would average 50,700 in annual salary,” said Hodges.

The research does not address how the expansion would impact the state after three years, when Florida would be responsible for 10 percent of the new Medicaid costs.

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Senate Medicaid Expansion Plan

March 20th, 2013 by flanews

In an attempt to break a stalemate between the House and the Governor’s office, the Florida Senate is proposing an alternative to the Medicaid expansion. Whitney Ray went one-on-one with the state senator who has a plan to allow Florida to accept the Medicaid money without expanding the entitlement program.

The full court press to claim billions of federal dollars to expand Medicaid is on. House Democrats prayed with pastors Wednesday for heavenly help convincing GOP lawmakers to expand Medicaid.

“We pray for those who receive inadequate treatment for their illness,” prayed Reverend Errol Thompson with New Life Fellowship Baptist Church in Orlando.

While Democrats prayed, Alysia Peddy, a mother of a disabled Tampa boy told her story of how Medicaid keeps her family together.

Reporter: Where would you be without Medicaid?
Alysia: My son would not be home with our family, so Medicaid offers us the ability to keep us at home with us in a loving very caring environment.

The battle lines have been drawn between the House Speaker who opposes the expansion and the Governor who now wants to accept the federal cash.

“And even our governor, who we don’t always agree with, even he says let’s go ahead and let’s do this,” said House Minority Leader Perry Thurston.

The Senate’s working on an alternative plan, one that could save the state more than 100 million dollars a year.

State Senator Joe Negron is pushing a plan to use the Medicaid expansion dollars to purchase private insurance for people who qualify.

“We’ve developed a plan to use available funds to put them in private insurance. It empowers them. They get to choose their insurance plan. We have incentives in the plan,” said Negron.

The plan would require the new recipients to pay premiums and co-pays. Negron says the personal investment will make the recipients more responsible.

The plan would need approval from the full Senate, the House and the Governor. The feds would then have to sign off on the plan.

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