Adam Putnam is against expanding Medicaid in Florida.
In an about-face, Gov. Rick Scott announced that he would support a massive Medicaid expansion, providing healthcare coverage to an additional million Floridians thanks to billions of federal dollars. Back in 2010, the Republican governor ran on a platform of calling Obamacare a “job-killer.”
Scott’s decision led to criticism from fellow Republicans, including Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
“The expansion of Medicaid in FL does not create jobs or strengthen our infrastructure,” wrote Putnam on Twitter on Feb. 21. “And it will cost Florida $5B over the next 10 years.”
Typically when we hear about a massive influx of federal dollars into a state — whether to build light rail, improve schools or, in this case, sign up one million poor people for health insurance — folks start salivating over job creation predictions.
We wanted to explore Putnam’s claim that the federally funded Medicaid expansion won’t create jobs in Florida. The evidence we found suggests Putnam is wrong, but it’s far from certain. Healthcare is a complicated field, and the way the a Medicaid expansion will play out on the state level in Florida increases the uncertainty.
Instead of a Truth-O-Meter rating, we’re providing an overview of the research we found and what experts had to say.
Putnam points to Maine and Arizona
We’ll start with a little background: The Republican-dominated Legislature will decide this spring whether to sign off on the Medicaid expansion. The state’s tab for Medicaid, a government-run health insurance program for the very poor, has been escalating and eats up about one-third of the state budget.
Medicaid is a joint state and federal program. The federal government currently covers about 55 percent of the costs in Florida. The 2010 Affordable Care Act encourages states to expand eligibility and dangled a carrot: The feds would pay 100 percent of the expansion for the first three years, declining to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.
We found plenty of debate among economists, healthcare experts and politicians — a Sarasota GOP chairman declared that Medicaid expansion would create jobs — while we couldn’t get an answer from Scott about his view.
A spokeswoman for Putnam sent us recent testimony before Florida legislators by experts about previous Medicaid expansions in Maine and Arizona — Maine’s governor has rejected the current expansion, while Arizona has agreed to it.
The testimony we saw didn’t address job creation, but it did make this point: Some predictions about Medicaid expansion ended up not being accurate. For example, uncompensated charity care increased, which undermines the argument that when hospitals get reimbursed for more patients, they will be able to hire more staff.
Research studies predicting job growth
We’ve viewed several studies in Florida or other states that predict job growth as a result of Medicaid expansion. We should note that they were written by or for stakeholders or those who support Obamacare.
The studies are based on the theory that as states expand Medicaid, new patients will access medical services they haven’t in the past. As hospitals reduce uncompensated care, or other caregivers take on additional paying patients, they will take in more revenue to help them hire extra workers. The job growth predictions include direct jobs in healthcare and indirect jobs (A nurse buys a new car, for example.).