Florida House Panel Rejects Medicaid Expansion

The Florida House Select Committee on Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act voted along party lines yesterday to reject a proposed expansion of Medicaid. The committee vote does not close the door on Medicaid expansion this legislative term, but sends a strong message that expansion proponents have their work cut out for them if they are going to steer a Medicaid expansion bill through the legislature.

Gov. Rick Scott surprised many political analysts last month when he announced that he supports Medicaid expansion, which supplements the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Scott’s administration says expanding Medicaid in Florida will likely cost state taxpayers $5 billion during the first 10 years after expansion, with federal taxpayers (including Floridians) on the hook for another $45 billion during the first 10 years after expansion.

Each state will decide whether to expand its Medicaid program to facilitate Obamacare. For Medicaid expansion to occur in Florida, the legislature would have to approve a Medicaid expansion bill and Scott would have to forego a veto.

Legislative Democrats appear united in their support of Medicaid expansion, known as Obamacaid, but Republicans hold strong majorities in the Florida House and Senate. Accordingly, Democrats need several Republicans in both the House and Senate to support Obamacaid for it to become law. Conservatives in Florida and other states are nearly united in their opposition to Obamacaid, with Scott’s defection a notable exception.

An Obamacaid bill appears likely to emerge from the Senate, as there are several liberal Republicans likely to join Democrats supporting Obamacaid. Accordingly, the real drama is in the more conservative House, which also must approve an Obamacaid bill for it to become law.

Before the full House can vote on an Obamacaid bill, a House Committee must draft and approve such legislation. Yesterday’s vote in the House Select Committee on Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act presented Democrats with a two-fold setback. First, it halted Obamacaid legislation dead in its tracks. Second, it signaled that even if Obamacaid supporters somehow get a bill to the full House floor, Republicans will likely reject it.

The state legislature will be in session for the next two months, meaning Obamacaid proponents will have more opportunities to present an Obamacaid bill and steer it through the House. While conservatives will have to hold firm against Obamacaid legislation throughout the legislative session to keep it from becoming law, Obamacaid proponents need only a single legislative victory to make it the law of the state.

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