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Florida House Lawmakers Pass Budget Bill, Some Criticize Lack Of Medicaid Expansion Spending

The Florida House of Representatives chamber
The Florida House of Representatives chamber

This post has been updated.

The Florida House of Representatives approved a proposed $97 billion state budget today for the upcoming fiscal year, that starts in July, and it includes funding to extend Medicaid coverage for mothers. Uninsured mothers in Florida would get 12 months of Medicaid, up from two.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, praised the extension, which is expected to help many Black mothers in the state, who are at far greater risk of maternal mortality than other women in the state.

"The dollars that we're spending to extend postpartum care from 60 days to a full year is incredible," she said, nodding to State Rep. Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee, who fought for years to get this approved.

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During discussion on the House floor, though, two state representatives from South Florida said they’re disappointed in the House budget bill, in part because is doesn't include expansion — which is different from the extension — to cover more people
by including adults with incomes through 138% of poverty.

State Rep. Omari Hardy, D-West Palm Beach, voted against the budget.

"Do we value health care for working class and poor Floridians? No, because this budget doesn't reflect an expansion of Medicaid even though the federal government is throwing money at us," he said.

State Rep. Dotie Joseph, D-North Miami, voted for the budget but said Florida’s leaving too much money on the table.

"This is not about philosophy," Joseph said. "This is about people. People need that money, Republicans and Democrats alike."

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government covers 90% of the cost to expand Medicaid in Florida. The recent $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 relief measure signed by President Joe Biden also offers extra money to incentivize the 12 Medicaid expansion holdout states, which includes Florida.

Republican lawmakers have said if the federal expansion money were to get reduced, the state would be left covering the bills.

According to the News Service of Florida's reporting by Christine Sexton, the Medicaid extension would be funded, as per the House version, by taking out $288 million in Medicaid payments to hospitals. "The House budget plan also includes a $226 million reduction in what are known as 'enhanced' Medicaid payments to 28 hospitals that provide the largest amounts of charity care," Sexton reported.

House lawmakers will now negotiate with the Senate to agree on a final spending plan, that would then head to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Verónica Zaragovia was born in Cali, Colombia, and grew up in South Florida. She’s been a lifelong WLRN listener and is proud to cover health care for the station. Verónica has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master's degree in journalism. For many years, Veronica lived out of a suitcase (or two) in New York City, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, D.C., San Antonio and Austin, where she worked as the statehouse and health care reporter with NPR member station KUT.