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The Florida Senate

Minority Office — Press Release


January 11, 2019

CONTACT: Michelle DeMarco, 850.487.5833

Senate Democrats See Storm Clouds Gathering as Talk of Health Care “Reforms” Begins in Tallahassee

Preliminary plans not only threaten defenseless Floridians, but may widely impact taxpayers

Tallahassee —

Hundreds of thousands of working, low-income Floridians, as well as veterans, the elderly, and children with chronic, life-threatening illnesses, could find themselves targeted once again as Republicans launch renewed efforts to curtail vital services under the guise of “cost savings” and “more health care choice,” Senate Democrats warned this week.

Florida is one of 14 states refusing to expand Medicaid coverage that would keep up to 800,000 low-income adults out of expensive emergency rooms, and bring home to the state billions of its residents’ tax dollars in Medicaid federal funding. Sadly, newly-elected Governor Ron DeSantis shows no signs of relenting on the hard line his party has adopted on rejecting any broadening of Medicaid coverage.

At the same time, those Floridians who are eligible for the Medicaid coverage the state does provide could face daunting prospects under the new administration.  Late last year, the Senate floated a revived idea to “block grant” Medicaid, teaming up with the Trump Administration to deliver a lump sum of cash, in exchange for increased “flexibility” to the Sunshine State, ostensibly to cover the working poor. There would be few strings attached to the money, however; the main restriction would be the amount.

Senate Democrats oppose any proposals that would make Medicaid a block grant. We know that where there’s a block grant, there’s always a “block” that gets left out.  Florida already has a lot of flexibility in how we design our Medicaid program, who gets coverage, what services they get and how much we pay for those services.  We don’t need “increased flexibility.” That’s just bureaucratic speak for cutting eligibility, services, or provider payments and putting up barriers like time limits or onerous work requirements.

At the same time, we support restoring the funding for three months of retroactive coverage for Medicaid that was cut from this year’s budget.  Because Florida did not expand its Medicaid program, most healthy, uninsured, low-income Floridians will not qualify for Medicaid until they are seriously ill or disabled.  The people hurt by this cut are those suddenly hit with unanticipated and costly catastrophic illnesses, such as stroke, cancer or a car accident, as well as seniors needing nursing home care. Obviously, the impacts of this change will be profound and devastating, potentially forcing them into medical bankruptcy and shifting the costs for their care to others.

Finally, the governor’s pick to head up AHCA - the agency overseeing the Medicaid program - is alarming. A staunch opponent of Medicaid expansion, Mary Mayhew brings with her a troubling track record of making it more difficult for people to qualify for Medicaid, a penchant for boosting copayments on people who can ill afford them, and a willingness to thwart the will of the voters in her previous state of Maine, where a 2017 ballot referendum to expand Medicaid was approved.

We share the goals with our Republican colleagues of ensuring that all Floridians have access to high-quality, affordable health care, and using taxpayers’ money wisely. But we disagree strongly on how to get there.

Where there is common ground, we will work with our Republican colleagues.  But don’t mistake compromise for capitulation.