Updated state estimates are expected today, but the amount the state could receive for expanding Medicaid is more than $20 billion in the first 10 years. By comparison, the state’s share would be about $3 billion.
Florida Hospital Association president Bruce Rueben has been trying to study up on the Arkansas plan so that his organization can decide whether it would support something similar in Florida. The group is lobbying in favor of Medicaid expansion because hospitals agreed to other funding cuts as a trade-off.
“By all means, take a look at it,” Rueben said of the Arkansas plan. “The key is to get people covered. We have a window of opportunity for three years in which 100 percent of the financing for this extended coverage will come from federal tax dollars.”
Florida lawmakers have no timeline for when to have new recommendations in place. The 60-day legislative session began Tuesday, but if they don’t meet that deadline there is the possibility of a special session.
Even if Republicans, who control both chambers, reach an agreement, there are no guarantees Scott will come along. In an exclusive interview with the Herald/Times Wednesday, the governor did not say whether he would support any alternatives to Medicaid expansion in light of the strong opposition in the House.
“We’re having a conversation. I was clear about what I will do,” Scott said. “It’s going to go through a process and this is just the beginning.”
When asked about the Arkansas plan specifically, he refused to bite. “We’ll see what they come out with,” Scott said.
There is also a chance the House ultimately embraces Scott’s Medicaid expansion proposal. Speaking to the Florida Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said Florida and other states may eventually agree to some form of Medicaid expansion.
Atwater, who has criticized Scott’s expansion proposal, said that the state was in a “really tough spot.” Growing Medicaid will bring additional costs, but not accepting the federal money could have steep consequences as well because of the hospital cuts, he said.
“I believe they’re going to pass [on the expansion] — that’s my take,” he said. “And then I think, as the stresses begin to fall like, again, (Low Income Pool money for safety nets) being diminished, this is going to cause great stress to that choice. And, I don’t know, the inevitable, it may be, no matter what people think, happens.”
Times researcher Natalie Watson and Herald/Times staff writers Steve Bousquet and Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report. Contact Tia Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-224-7263.