Florida senator’s secret Medicaid expansion plan won’t work

(Flickr)
(Flickr)

Florida is one of 24 states that hasn't joined Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, which would cover about 1.3 million uninsured adults in the state and bring in about $51 billion in federal funds over the next decade. Only Texas stands to benefit more from the Medicaid expansion.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said he's talking with federal health officials on a plan to go around the state legislature, which strongly opposes expanding Medicaid. But federal officials say their hands are tied.

The Florida Current reported on Wednesday that Nelson told state lawmakers that he met with Health and Human Services and Medicaid officials in Washington to see if there's a way for Florida to get Medicaid expansion funding anyway. Nelson reportedly hopes to release some details on the plans in two weeks, the Current reported.

"We are trying quietly to encourage, between the Department of HHS, CMS -- that's Medicaid, Medicare -- to see if they can come up with some kind of fix so that all this money is not going to be left, and penalize over a million people," Nelson said, according to the paper. "I'm not prepared to talk about this thing that I'm urging CMS to do, because all the details are not there, but within the next couple of weeks, hopefully, it's going to be there and I'll let you know as soon as I get a green light from CMS."

The only problem is that CMS can't give Nelson that green light. A proposal to access Medicaid expansion funds has to come from the state itself, said CMS spokeswoman Emma Sandoe.

I've reached out to Nelson's office for more details on his discussions with the Obama administration and will update this post if I hear back.

It's highly unlikely that Florida will expand Medicaid this year. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, after announcing his expansion support in an emotional press conference a little more than a year ago, has pretty much abandoned that endorsement during his re-election effort. The state legislature has also opposed the expansion.

When asked about Nelson's discussions with federal health officials, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford provided this statement: "We've learned from the Obamacare rollout debacle that you cannot trust Washington's math. We look forward to seeing more details from him."

Jason Millman covers all things health policy, with a focus on Obamacare implementation. He previously covered health policy for Politico.
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