House Doubles Down On Rejecting Federal Money And Votes Out Its Own Medicaid Alternative

Apr 15, 2013

The Florida House has reinforced its decision not to accept any federal funding to extend health insurance coverage to people who would have otherwise qualified to it under the Affordable Care Act. Instead, the House is going with its own scaled back plan which received approval from the chamber’s health committee set up to examine the law.

Testimony before members of the House Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at times verged on tears. As people like Alexandra Ale talked about the difficulty of getting and keeping health insurance. She was diagnosed with congenital heart disease in 2002 while going to school full-time and working.

“I was insured through my father’s employment. I was told I needed open heart surgery. But two days before my surgery, my insurance was canceled because I had to drop that semester from school. I couldn’t qualify for Medicaid because I didn’t have children.” 

Republican Representative Mike Fasano tried, and failed to amend the House proposal to look more like the Senate’s plan. It would take some $51 billion  in federal Medicaid money over the next decade, and give it to a million Floridians to purchase private health insurance in through the Florida Healthy Kids program. A visibly angry Fasano railed against the Houses’ proposal, which rejects federal dollars in favor of $2,000 state-issued vouchers for around 115,000 people to purchase bare-bones coverage. Fasano says, what the House is offering doesn’t amount to much when it comes to insuring people.

“We did some shopping...for a single person under 30, a deductible of $1000 for a female, it would be $210-270 a month, above and beyond the $2,000 this bill would give them... being that she’s single and has no children, she wouldn’t qualify under the house plan," he said.

Fasano says the people the House plan would apply to can’t afford both a high deductable and three-digit monthly premium payments. To be eligible a person would have to make under the federal poverty level, or less than $12,000 a year for a single person. The proposal is also limited to specific groups of people in that category, such as those with disabilities. But Republican Representative Travis Cummings, who has sponsored the bill, says people shouldn’t rely on the federal government, and neither should Florida.

“An able-bodied adult should hopefully be able to find work and not rely on an entitlement program. That’s quite frankly my opinion there," Cummings said. "This good bill allows us to revisit how large our safety-net should be. This bill recognizes the traditional safety-net of the disabled, children, pregnant women and working parents.”  

The House’s plan cleared its committee on a party line vote. And that means there are now three different proposals in play. Meanwhile, Governor Rick Scott is backing a far more expansive proposal in the Senate that would take the federal money and cover more people. Some have even begun speculating on the possibility of a special session if lawmakers can’t reach an agreement.