WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is asking federal health officials to consider an emerging idea that would still allow Florida to expand its Medicaid program to some 1.2 million low-income residents.
"An idea is to involve public hospitals, which serve many of the state's low-income or indigent patients, in providing some of their revenue in place of state funding for Medicaid expansion," Nelson said in a media release.
Congress already has given all the states an opportunity to expand Medicaid. In Florida, that would mean coverage for the estimated 1.2 million Floridians, which would bring some $51 billion in federal dollars back into the state over the next decade.
But the Republican-controlled state Legislature last year refused to consider an expansion of the program. And so far this year, Gov. Rick Scott is still ignoring the issue while state legislative leaders are once again failing to consider it, Nelson said.
While the idea of alternative funding – which would involve the use of a so-called intergovernmental transfer – is still in the discussion phase among some Florida hospital and health industry officials, Nelson has asked the head of CMS to be open-minded if such a plan is to go further.
"... A locally financed plan is worth formal consideration and I will continue to work with interested parties to encourage the state to officially offer such a plan," Nelson wrote in a letter to Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services."
Ultimately, any plan to expand Medicaid would have to be negotiated between CMS and state leaders.
Under the initial Medicaid proposal rejected by the state, the federal government would have paid the full cost of expansion for the first three years and then pared that down to 90 percent.
Nelson and many business and civic leaders in Florida have argued that accepting some $51 billion in federal funds to expand Medicaid would not only have provided health coverage for the additional 1.2 million residents, but also would have created jobs and reduced the burden on taxpayers who pick up the tab when higher-cost emergency rooms are used to treat people in need of only primary care.