Lawmakers: Little Hope For Medicaid Expansion In Florida

Dec 10, 2015

Some Tampa-area lawmakers are giving Medicaid expansion little chance of being considered during the upcoming  state legislative session.

State Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, told a gathering of the Tampa Bay Health Care Collaborative on Wednesday that Medicaid expansion hasn't found support the past three years in Tallahassee.

His prediction was backed up by fellow state Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, who supports the idea of expanding health care coverage to an estimated 567,000 uninsured Floridians. The reason is less about money, and more about power, he said.

"I don't see us expanding Medicaid in the state of Florida and part of the reasoning for that is political. If we're going to be completely candid here, we have a presidential election coming up next year,” he said.  

“And I believe the hope from my counterparts on the other side of the aisle is that there will be a Republican President elected that will find a way to repeal Obamacare as it is currently enacted."

One lawmaker attending the forum at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County was hopeful. State Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, said the skepticism isn't stopping her.

She said she plans to continue pushing for the issue during the session that starts Jan. 12, and asked those attending the event in Ybor City to help her continue to lobby for Medicaid expansion. 

Donna Peterson, dean of the University of South Florida College of Public Health, moderated the forum addressing a long list of health care items up for consideration in Tallahassee.  Though Grant is a Republican, he and his fellow House members on the panel found a lot of areas of agreement.

In particular, there is strong backing for more mental health funding for Floridians. Cruz says that she gives credit to Gov. Rick Scott, for his vocal support finding money to help.

"He's been generous in this year's budget, it is at $12 million,” she said. “I'll think we will be much better suited than we were for some of the programs (in previous years) where there are people waiting for services, especially in the area of those with substance abuse."

Grant said the hardest part will be keeping track of the many bills that include money for mental health programs and treatment.

Mary Shedden reports for WUSF in Tampa. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.