FL Governor Rick Scott |  Federal Health Care Reform |  Health Insurance |  Medicaid |  Health Regulation |  FL Dept. of Health |  Personal Health |  FL Agency for Health Care Administration
Health Care >
Pafford: Medicaid expansion will be an issue

The incoming leader of Florida House Democrats said he intends to make Medicaid expansion an issue during the spring legislative session and the 2014 election cycle. Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said Democratic victories in a special House race in Pasco County and mayoral races elsewhere show that Medicaid expansion is an issue that a candidate can run on and win.

“Florida is in the midst of change,” Pafford said during a conference call organized by the White House to mark the end of the first month of enrollment for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. “We won in some part due to the fact that Medicaid expansion and delivering health care is important.”

Pafford called on Gov. Rick Scott to use the bully pulpit of his office to persuade House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and House Republicans to agree to extend Medicaid coverage to a million uninsured Floridians, as called for under the ACA.

Scott reversed course in February and endorsed expansion, but after snafus plagued the rollout of ACA heath insurance exchanges his support has appeared to soften.

“The President’s healthcare law is causing hundreds of thousands of Floridians to lose their health insurance plans,” Scott said in a prepared statement released by his office Friday when asked whether Medicaid expansion would be part of his 2014 legislative agenda. “The White House’s politics of deflection and distraction won’t give anyone their healthcare back.”

During the 2013 session, Scott and House Democrats supported a Senate expansion plan that House Republicans eventually killed. It would have drawn down $51 billion from the federal government over 10 years to provide insurance to the poor. About a million adults without children earning up to $15,000 a year would have been eligible for coverage.

Instead, House Republicans backed a plan that would have covered about 115,000 uninsured parents, children and the disabled. The Senate plan appeared to comply with ACA regulations but the House proposal did not.

“It’s a good thing to leave as a legacy,” Pafford said about reducing the number of uninsured Floridians. “You are elected for a very limited amount of time in this state to make a difference and this is their (Scott and Weatherford) moment.”

Weatherford and House Republicans frequently blame the quality of care, lack of access and cost for their reluctance to add more people to the federally sponsored Medicaid program. Expansion of the program to include people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level is a key component of the ACA.

“The White House has its hands full with the disastrous rollout of Obamacare,” Weatherford said Friday. “The last thing it should be doing is telling states to sign up for an expansion of Obamacare.”

Pafford, however, said he will continue to hammer away at the issue.

“Let us not lose sight of who these people are ... these are working people,” Pafford said. “It is shameful that this state has leadership that thus far has proven (it can’t) pass any kind of expansion.”

Reporter James Call can be reached at [email protected].

Related Current

blog comments powered by Disqus