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FL Now in Minority on Medicaid

Two more Republican governors of big states have agreed to accept federal funds that will allow an expansion of Medicaid health coverage to low-income uninsured adults.

With the decisions in Michigan and Pennsylvania, a majority of states have now said they will sign on to  one of the key features of the Affordable Care Act, the TheWashington Post reports. Florida remains a holdout.

Because the House blocked Medicaid expansion in Florida this year, the state misses out on an estimated $51 billion over a decade that would cover about 1 million of the lowest-income uninsured adults in the state. They will be left out when other uninsured Floridians begin shopping for a subsidized health plan on the federal online Marketplace Oct. 1.

"This $51 billion is our tax money, and if the state doesn't take it, it is going to other states," said Dierdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. "They will get the competitive advantage, the profit and the new jobs, and Florida will miss out."

Today in Tampa, the League is holding a press conference to bring Medicaid expansion back up for public discussion. In addition to the usual supporters, including Tampa General Hospital CEO Jim Burkhart, speakers include Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

That reflects the result of academic studies from the University of Florida, Georgetown University and others that showed Florida's decision to opt out of Medicaid expansion would cost not just federal funds but more than 100,000 jobs and a ripple effect on the economy.

Medicaid expansion was originally written into the Affordable Care Act to cover the low-income uninsured, but the U.S. Supreme Court left the expansion up to the states.  Under the expansion, the federal government says it will pay for 100 percent of the cost for the first three years, tapering gradually to 90 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has been an outspoken opponent of Obamacare in other respects, agreed to accept the federal funds for Medicaid expansion. The Florida Senate adopted a proposal by  state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, to accept the money and use it to buy coverage in private plans.

But House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, blocked it. He had help from state Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, who presided over a Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Neither have retracted their opposition.

Their main arguments were: That the federal government could not be trusted to come through with the promised funds because it is in debt; that Medicaid is not worth expanding because it is "broken"; and that taxpayers should not have to cover "able-bodied adults."

Negron and others who supported taking the money answered that the federal government has never before failed to make its Medicaid share of payments, that Florida has made significant changes in its Medicaid program to privatize it, and that many able-bodied adults have jobs that don't provide health insurance.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.