The decisive vote Friday in the Florida House against using federal money to provide more low income individuals with health insurance dealt supporters of coverage expansion a major setback, but it does not mean the issue is going away.
Many Florida businesses will soon be hit with fines for having uninsured employees and the state’s health care funding problems will only get worse next year, resulting in continued pressure on the Legislature to consider accepting additional federal Medicaid funds to insure an estimated 800,000 low-income Floridians.
Senate leaders who pushed for Florida to adopt a modified version of Medicaid expansion say they expect to revive the issue next year.
“We are committed to it,” said Bradenton Republican Sen. Bill Galvano, a future Senate president.
Yet while the debate is likely to continue, passage of legislation still seems like a long shot in the near future. Friday’s lopsided House vote is sure to throw some cold water on the issue and cause some senators to re-evaluate whether it is worth the effort, especially with the political dynamics unlikely change in the short term.
The Senate will continue to fight an uphill battle as long as House leaders and the governor remain opposed to drawing down federal Medicaid dollars.
Senators worked this year to make the plan appeal to conservatives in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Rather than simply expand Medicaid as authorized under President Barack Obama’s health care reforms, they crafted a proposal that used the federal dollars to help subsidize private insurance. They also included provisions requiring recipients to contribute small premium payments and be working or in school.