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Florida House a Firewall Against Medicaid Expansion?

March 4, 2013 - 6:00pm

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherfords opening remarks to begin the 2013 House session signaled that proponents of Medicare expansion in the state, which include Gov. Rick Scott, will have an uphill battle to push it through the Florida House, which has positioned itself as a firewall against expansion of the costly program.

The speaker laid out an agenda Tuesday morning that includes, among other items, fiscal responsibility. The Republic of Wesley Chapel said expanding Medicaid forces Florida to expand a broken system that we have been battling Washington to fix.

Growing up in a family of nine children gave Weatherford firsthand knowledge of the need for a safety net, but he said, This inflexible plan, thrust upon us by the federal government, is not aimed at strengthening the safety net.

Weatherford opposes the expansion because he believes it will end up driving up costs and weakening an already flawed system by reducing access to and quality of health care in Florida.

A special House committee created to analyze the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and make implementation recommendations voted Monday not to draft legislation to expand Medicaid in Florida. The Select Committee on PPACA voted along party lines, with Republicans in favor, not to accept money from the federal government.

The speaker Tuesday reiterated his position that there is no free money from the federal government. The James Madison Institute quickly supported the committees decision, saying there is a history of the federal government walking away and leaving states carrying the burden of its failed promises.

Meanwhile, proponents of accepting federal dollars for Medicaid expansion argue the fight to repeal Obamacare was lost when the Supreme Court ruled in the law's favor and when President Barack Obama won a second term to the White House.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott outlined what he believes are the states options Tuesday. In his annual State of the State address in the Capitol, the Republican governor, who once staunchly opposed the federal health-care law, said, Our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying health care to our citizens, or using federal funding to help some of the poorest in our state with the Medicaid program as we explore other health care improvements.

Scott continued, I concluded that for the three years the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.

The Florida Senate will soon voice its opinion on what has become one of the hottest issues in Tallahassee. The Senates committee on PPACA was scheduled to take up the issue Monday afternoon but postponed the meeting, with the chairman of the Senate committee, Joe Negron, R-Stuart, saying more time is needed to get the decision right.

Anne Smith writes special to Sunshine State News.

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