Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has written a letter to Governor Rick Scott urging him to call a special session on Medicaid after Republicans in the legislature concluded their 2013 session by killing any chance at expansion. In doing so, Republicans turned away $51 billion in federal funding for coverage to 1 million low income Floridians, sending Florida tax dollars elsewhere, much like Scott did with federal funds for high-speed rail.
In Florida – a state where roughly one-in-five residents not covered by Medicare lack any health-insurance coverage at all - the consequences of the state Legislature’s recent decision not to expand Medicaid loom large.
As you know, in passing the Affordable Care Act, Congress fully funded the expansion of Medicaid coverage to an estimated one million Floridians. And, your announcement last February - when you publicly declared you wouldn’t be the one to “deny” these Floridians this coverage - was seen by many as a “watershed moment” for the nation’s health-care bill.
Now, the Legislature has done exactly what you said you wouldn’t: it has denied these Floridians access to coverage. And now, only you have the chance to remedy the lawmakers’ failure to expand Medicaid to these needy Floridians. Therefore, I urge you to call a special session.
As governor, you have a responsibility to the safety and welfare of all Floridians. And absent further action on your part, hundreds of thousands will continue receiving their medical care in hospital emergency rooms across our state – where the costs are the absolute highest, and taxpayers and policyholders foot-the-bill.
Not only was this an unconscionable and callous decision by the Legislature – it was also a bad decision for many business owners who could now end up paying tax penalties of $2,000 to $3,000 per employee.
As a former state treasurer and insurance regulator, I can also tell you one of the ways to curb a rise in premiums is by reducing the high expenses associated with uncompensated and indigent medical care that get passed on to the rest of us.
So, again, I strongly urge you to remedy the Legislature’s inexcusable failure. I look forward to hearing from you on this issue of special importance and working with you to provide Floridians with this much-needed medical coverage.
House Republicans, led by Speaker Will Weatherford, blocked the effort before closing the session Friday. Weatherford opposed Medicaid expansion even though his own family were once the beneficiaries of Medicaid. Weatherford did so for, what most are saying, purely political purposes to establish himself among extreme right-wing and Tea Party Republicans who oppose anything included in the Affordable Care Act. Weatherford is against the idea of a special session:
"I don't know what it would achieve," Weatherford said. "Unless there was an agreement of what the session would do, calling one doesn't make sense. We would have to have some agreement on policy, other than drawing down on federal funds."
After opposing it himself, Scott changed his tune and said he favored Medicaid expansion when he all but had no choice. Republicans gave him political cover by blocking it, and it remains to be seen if he'll stand by that decision by pushing for a special session.
During the session, Scott did nothing to push Republicans in that direction.