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House, Senate Remain Divided On Medicaid Expansion

The Senate says it would consider expanding Florida's Medicaid program to nearly a million more low-income Floridians. The House is continuing to say no.

The federal government’s deal with Indiana to expand that state’s Medicaid program could boost the prospect of expansion in Florida. Indiana’s Medicaid expansion program includes co-pays and premiums for low-income people—something popular among republicans.  Senate President Andy Gardiner says Indiana has caught his chamber’s attention.

“Recently we just saw where Indiana received some flexibility and we’re monitoring that, but we’re also realists and we realize we need a partner in this," he said.

That partner is the Florida House—which has consistently opposed allowing nearly a million more low-income people into the program. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says his chamber has no plans for an expansion.

"I am a never-say-never kind of guy, and certainly anything can come about that provides opportunity, but at this time we do not plan to hear Medicaid expansion," Crisafulli said, describing the health insurance for the poor as, "a broken system."

Still, groups that previously opposed using federal dollars to expand the state's Medicaid rolls to more mostly low-income adults, are increasingly saying they would support an expansion.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is backing an expansion--with some caveats. And a coalition of businesses, hospitals and others have pitched a plan that would also expand coverage to between 800,000 and a million people in what's called the "Medicaid Coverage Gap." Even the Florida Medical Association has said it would back expansion.

The back-and-forth comes as a major source of funding for hospitals is set to dry up. And healthcare providers are also facing the possibility that congress could choose not to continue funding another program that provides health insurance for children.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell says she’s open to talking with states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.