State Economists To Scrutinize Proposed Medicaid Expansion

Jun 28, 2019

State economists meet Friday to begin discussions on a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved next year by voters, would expand Florida’s Medicaid program.

The proposal, backed by a group that wants to force the state to expand Medicaid as authorized under the federal health care act known as "Obamacare," will become the first to be evaluated under a contentious new law designed to make it more difficult for citizen initiatives to get onto the ballot in Florida.

State economists have been required to review proposed amendments in the past, but those reviews haven’t included a detailed financial analysis until now.

Anne Swerlick will make a presentation on behalf of Florida Decides Healthcare, Inc., the group advancing the amendment, the state's chief economist, Amy Baker, told The News Service of Florida on Thursday.

Swerlick is a health-care attorney who has long advocated on behalf of the state’s elderly and disabled.

The Financial Impact Estimating Conference, which conducts the reviews, will also hear Friday from the Agency for Health Care Administration about the state’s $29 billion Medicaid program and the people it serves.

The proposed constitutional amendment would require that the state’s existing Medicaid program be expanded to provide coverage for additional low-income Floridians.

The proposed Medicaid expansion is the first ballot initiative that could be on the 2020 ballot to be analyzed under the new law.

But that’s not the only reason the proposed amendment is unique, according to Baker.

“This one will be the most complicated economic analysis,” Baker said, noting that not all of the proposed citizen’s initiatives will have an impact on the state’s economy and budget.

The financial analysis will include information about how much it would cost the state if voters approve the amendment and how the Medicaid expansion would increase demand for health-care providers and hospitals.

The mandate for the review of proposed amendments' impact on the state budget as well as state and local economies was included in a measure (HB 5) passed during the 2019 legislative session. Gov. Rick DeSantis signed the bill into law earlier this month.

The new law requires the Financial Impact Estimating Conference to produce two documents detailing the analysis --- a financial impact statement and an initiative financial information statement. The financial impact statement will appear on the ballot to inform voters whether the proposed amendment will increase or decrease costs or revenues and, if so, to what extent.

The lengthier financial information statement will be available on the websites of the secretary of state and the Office of Economic and Demographic Research. Supervisors of elections must include the internet addresses with sample ballots.

A summary of the financial information statements will also be available at each polling place, the main office of the elections supervisor, and the supervisor’s website.

Proposed constitutional amendments can be placed on the ballot in Florida by the state Legislature, the Constitution Revision Commission, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, and the citizens’ initiative process.

While all proposed constitutional measures require 60 percent approval by voters to pass, only citizens' initiatives will be required to undergo the increased financial scrutiny.

Friday’s public meeting will be the first of four that have been scheduled to discuss the financial impact of the proposed Medicaid expansion. Other meetings have been scheduled in Tallahassee on July 12,  July 29 and August 9.