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.”
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. Instead of a Truth-O-Meter rating, we’re providing an overview of the research we found and what experts had to say.
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. 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. On the other hand, some experts questioned whether the experience in a smaller state like Maine was relevant to Florida.
We reviewed 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 job growth predictions include direct jobs in healthcare and indirect jobs (a nurse buys a new car, for example.)
“The reason that Medicaid expansion will create jobs is that this would represent new healthcare services for people not currently enrolled in the system,” said University of Florida economist Alan Hodges, a co-author of one study. He said Putnam’s “assertion that it will not create jobs is simply not true.”
Here’s a summary of some of the studies:
A 2013 study done for Families USA, a liberal group that supported the Affordable Care Act, concluded Medicaid expansion would support approximately 71,300 new jobs in 2016 in Florida.
A 2012 Florida Hospital Association study said if the federal government spends about $24.4 billion between 2012-23, it would lead to new 54,288 jobs over the 11-year period. About 38 percent of the jobs would be in the healthcare sector.