Florida Democrats on Capitol Hill Push Medicaid Expansion

With their party now in charge of the U.S. House, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and other Florida Democrats are leading the charge on Capitol Hill on medicaid expansion.

Towards the end of last week, Murphy, the leader of the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate Democrats, unveiled the “Smart Choice Act” which “would better inform states about the benefits of expanding access to their Medicaid programs.”

Murphy weighed in on why she had introduced the bill.

“Hardworking Floridians should not be denied access to quality, affordable health care because state leaders are misinformed about the true benefits of expanding Medicaid,” said Murphy. “By shinning a light on the real costs of our state’s misguided decision to forgo critical federal dollars, I’m hopeful we can put people over politics and finally come to a rational decision that helps cover nearly three million Floridians and save countless lives.”

Murphy is getting the backing of her fellow Democrats in the Florida delegation with U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Donna Shalala supporting it. Castor, as her office noted, serves on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and, from that perch “helped to draft the Affordable Care Act, which authorized Medicaid expansion for American families.” Shalala served as President Bill Clinton’s secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do for the health of my neighbors, for our state’s economy – and it’s popular among Floridians. Medicaid expansion would ensure that our neighbors get the care they need and would bring billions of our tax dollars home to Florida from Washington,” said Castor in support of Murphy’s bill. “Measuring the impact of Medicaid expansion is sure to demonstrate that Florida remains at a significant financial disadvantage compared to the states that acted to expand Medicaid.”

“Expanding Medicaid is as much of a good deal for states as it is for people. Florida has the third highest percentage of uninsured adults in the United States, and it is a tragedy that they are missing out on comprehensive coverage that will keep them healthy and able to work,” said Shalala. “By not expanding Medicaid, the state of Florida is leaving federal money on the table, and the people of Florida are paying the price. I appreciate the leadership of Rep. Murphy and her commitment to improving the health of all Floridians.”

“The Smart Choices Act would provide accurate and objective information that would help non-expansion states such as Florida re-evaluate their decision to forgo federal dollars meant for Medicaid expansion. A group of independent experts would publish an annual report that assesses the economic and human impact of expanding the health care program to cover more people in need. Florida is one of only 14 states that have rejected federal funding to expand Medicaid. Currently, 36 states have chosen to expand Medicaid. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), more than four million people are enrolled in Medicaid in Florida. Data collected in 2017 by the U.S. Census Bureau lists Florida’s uninsured rate at 12.9 percent, one of the worst rates in the country. Approximately 700,000 additional Floridians would be eligible for Medicaid if the state were to expand it, according to the best available estimates,” Murphy’s office noted.

“Under the Murphy bill…the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) would publish an annual report estimating the amount of federal funding that each expansion state will receive for the fiscal year to provide medical assistance to qualifying individuals. The report will also include the anticipated number of people who will be covered by the state’s Medicaid program during the same period. For each non-expansion state, the report would estimate the amount of additional federal funds the state would receive for the fiscal year, and the number of additional people who would receive access to care, if the state expanded,” Murphy’s office added.

The bill was sent to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.

Over in the Senate, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., is backing a companion bill.

 

Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.

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