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Justices Urged To Approve Medicaid Ballot Proposal

Florida Supreme Court
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Disputing arguments raised by the state House and Senate, a political committee Wednesday urged the Florida Supreme Court to sign off on a proposed constitutional amendment that would expand Medicaid coverage. 

The committee Florida Decides Healthcare is seeking to take the issue to voters in 2022 after Republican lawmakers have refused repeatedly in recent years to expand Medicaid to low-income adults who currently don’t qualify for coverage.

Such an expansion is allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, with Washington picking up most of the cost for newly covered people. The Supreme Court plays a key role because it must decide whether proposed ballot wording meets legal tests, such as not being misleading.

The House and Senate filed briefs last month raising a series of objections to the proposed amendment. But in a 26-page brief filed Wednesday afternoon, Barry Richard, an attorney for Florida Decides Healthcare, disputed the House and Senate arguments and wrote that the proposal meets legal requirements dealing with the ballot title and summary.

“The chief purpose of the amendment is to cause Florida to participate in expanded Medicaid coverage in a manner that will qualify for maximum federal financial participation,” Richard wrote. “That purpose is clearly, unambiguously, and accurately set forth in the ballot summary.”

The brief also said the proposal complies with a requirement that it deal with a single subject.

“The amendment has a singular purpose: participation of Florida in the optional Medicaid expansion as provided for in the ACA (Affordable Care Act),” the brief said. “All elements of the amendment are designed to implement that objective. Provisions that are incidental to an amendment’s chief purpose and designed to implement the purpose do not violate single-subject.”

In the briefs filed last month, the House and Senate contended, in part, that the proposal would violate the single-subject requirement because it would affect multiple branches of government, including the Legislature and the executive branch’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

In addition to filing the brief Wednesday, Florida Decides Healthcare requested that the Supreme Court hold oral arguments on the issue.