Last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Medicaid expansion provision of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) could survive, provided that each state be given the right to opt out of the expansion without losing its pre-existing Medicaid funding. See National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 132 S.Ct. 2566, 2607 (2012). In effect, this case allows each individual state to decide whether or not to expand Medicaid. On March 11, 2013, a week after a Florida House of Representatives committee voted to reject the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, a Florida Senate committee followed suit, rejecting the expansion as well.
This rejection appears to effectively turn down approximately $50 million in federal funds that the ACA would provide over the next decade, if Florida was to expand the Medicaid program. However, state legislators are nonetheless optimistic that a compromise can be reached with regard to the expansion. In lieu of agreeing to expand the Medicaid program, Senator Joe Negron, chairman of the Senate Committee, proposed an alternative plan to accept the federal funds, but have them used to place low-income persons into private insurance plans. The alternative plan would be set up through an existing state program, Florida Healthy Kids, which currently uses public funds to offer parents HMO coverage for children. The goal of this proposal is to allow the State of Florida to retain the federal funds, without having to expand the existing Medicaid system.
The “Florida Plan,” as Senator Negron refers to it, is similar to a February 2013 proposal made to the Obama administration by Arkansas legislators, which was given a preliminary sign to move forward. However, while Arkansas’s proposed plan would apply to approximately 240,000 people, the Florida Plan could extend to well over a million uninsured Floridians. At present, it is unclear whether the Obama administration would ultimately accept such a proposal from either state. However, Senator Negron asserts that this is Florida’s “opportunity to build a better system than the one Washington created.”
For more information on the Medicaid expansion provision of the Affordable Care Act, please contact LT Lafferty.