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Florida Pays More For Less Federal Health Care Funding

Nick Evans

Poor Floridians may see less access to medical care. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, said the state is turning down billions of dollars in federal funding for health care this year because it is not expanding Medicaid. Florida lawmakers are also planning to cut Medicaid and hospital funding.

Credit Nick Evans

Former mayor and city commissioner Dorothy Inman-Johnson said her granddaughter was born with a heart defect. Jayleigh had surgery as an infant to fix a hole in her heart.

“I cannot tell you the excruciating worry and pain our family went through as we sat in that waiting room to see if her surgery came out successfully,” she said.

Inman-Johnson told Nelson she’s thankful that her son Brad and his wife Jamie had health insurance to cover the medical costs. Nelson stopped in Tallahassee Saturday to meet with residents of Northwest Florida about potential changes to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal and replace it. That gets rid of states having to cover essential health services and cuts the Medicaid program. The legislation is now in the U.S. Senate.

Nelson said the federal government would pay 95 percent of the cost, equaling $5 billion if Florida expanded Medicaid this year to cover more 900,000 Floridians through Medicaid. The state would just pay $250 million. But Gov. Rick Scott has instead made a deal with President Donald Trump’s Administration to get $1.5 billion for uncompensated care with the state paying $600 million.

“Five billion versus a billion and a half, all of which it is for poor people’s health care. I mean it’s just ridiculous," he said. "It’s nothing but ideological partisanship and unfortunately, that’s what’s been going on.”

Nelson said if Republicans in the Senate get their way, the federal government will block grant Medicaid, which means cutting its share of funding to states. Scott has already asked the federal government to block grant some Medicaid funding to Florida in exchange for more flexibility in providing services and covering people.

Democratic State Rep. Daisy Baez said Florida might get less federal funding for health care while state lawmakers are also cutting hospital funding. She said the state budget currently under consideration cuts more than $500 million from hospitals.

“It’s an assault both at the federal level and the state level against the one industry we should be expanding not contracting," she said. "So, I think it’s a mistake.”

Members of Congress are home for about a week. State lawmakers are scheduled to vote on this year’s budget on Monday afternoon.

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Sarah Mueller is the first recipient of the WFSU Media Capitol Reporting Fellowship. She’ll be covering the 2017 Florida legislative session and recently earned her master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting at the University of Illinois Springfield. Sarah was part of the Illinois Statehouse press corps as an intern for NPR Illinois in 2016. When not working, she enjoys playing her yellow lab, watching documentaries and reading memoirs.
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