New Report Adds Insights to Debate on Whether Florida Should Exercise Medicaid Option

By Joan Alker, Center for Children and Families

Governor Rick Scott of Florida, famously a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act, recently signaled a new willingness to join the conversation on how to put the law to work for Florida families.

Today, we are releasing a report that will help give those engaged in the conversation some sound data and research to help guide them.

Among the most critical questions post Supreme Court is whether or not the state will exercise its option to extend Medicaid coverage to Florida residents with incomes at or below 133% of the Federal Poverty Level ($25,390 for a family of three).

My colleagues Jack Hoadley, Wesley Prater and I examined this question for a report commissioned by the Jessie Ball DuPont Foundation and the Winter Park Health Foundation on this very topic.

We found that Florida could exercise its Medicaid option and provide coverage to an estimated 800,000 to 1.3 million uninsured Floridians – adults and children — without assuming any new net costs.  Moreover, we estimated that Florida could save as much as $100 million a year because covering more people through Medicaid will reduce the financial costs of other state-supported safety net programs and the new coverage would be financed almost entirely by the federal government.

Florida officials have more realistic cost estimates than they used to but their math is still fuzzy because they haven’t accounted for savings that will accrue to the state after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. Uninsured people today get  some health care in emergency rooms or through state funded mental health services, for example, that the state is already paying for. Extending Medicaid will result in both state savings and better, more cost-effective care for Floridians that focuses on prevention and primary care rather than waiting for people to show up in the emergency room.

Hopefully those engaged in the discussion in Florida will read the report and realize that exercising the Medicaid option is a good deal for the state and Floridians.

This blog originally appeared on the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families SayAhhh! blog.

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