Miami-Dade County

Florida not among states to get $665 million in Affordable Care Act funding

People wait to speak with an insurance agent from Sunshine Life and Health Advisors as they discuss plans available from the Affordable Care Act at a store setup in the Mall of the Americas.
People wait to speak with an insurance agent from Sunshine Life and Health Advisors as they discuss plans available from the Affordable Care Act at a store setup in the Mall of the Americas. Miami Herald

The federal government announced Tuesday that it will award more than $665 million in Affordable Care Act “innovation grants” to 28 states, but Florida is not among them

Gov. Rick Scott has been a fierce critic of the health law popularly known as Obamacare and the state did not apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“I think what’s happening here is that a lot of governors in Republican states don’t buy into the ACA and they find it politically difficult to take even free money from the federal government,” said Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health, a healthcare advisory firm in Washington, D.C.

The State Innovation Models initiative, as the program is known, provides federal money for states to improve primary care, expand the use of health information technology and train healthcare workers. The funding is often used to help states focus on “safety-net” healthcare institutions and low-income populations, Mendelson said.

“States are laboratories of innovation and serve as critical partners in transforming healthcare,” said Patrick Conway, chief medical officer for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Asked why Florida did not apply for a grant, Shelisha Coleman, a spokeswoman for the Agency for Healthcare Administration, did not answer the question, saying only that the state had made improvements to its Medicaid program that would “bring more accountability, transparency and stability in costs.”

“People are dying every day and we’re leaving dollars on the table,” said Democratic state Rep. Cynthia Stafford.

Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard called Florida’s failure to apply for federal funding a “missed opportunity.”

The state Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, has also refused to accept about $5billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid, a move that would provide health coverage to an estimated 760,000 uninsured Floridans, including about 160,000 people in Miami-Dade County.

“I think it’s a very wrongheaded approach at the state level to continue to turn away dollars that can help Floridians,” Bullard said.

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This article was produced in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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