The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

February 21, 2013

Florida governor changes plan on Obamacare provision

(Continued)

The other six GOP governors who plan to expand the program are the leaders of Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and North Dakota. So far 21 states plus Washington, D.C., plan to expand their Medicaid programs under the health care law. Fourteen states have said they'll turn it down, although the debate is still going in several of them. Another 15 are weighing options.

Under the federal law, states were given the choice of whether to expand Medicaid to people whose incomes equal 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about $15,000 for an individual and $32,000 for a family of four.

Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country and some of the most stringent eligibility requirements. A family of three with income of $11,000 a year makes too much and single residents are not covered. The bulk of residents getting coverage under the Medicaid expansion will be childless adults.

The federal government's offer to cover most of the cost of expansion is much more generous than the roughly 50 percent matching rate that federal health officials currently pay for Medicaid. The state spends about $21 billion a year to cover roughly 3 million patients — about half are children.

Florida hospital officials have said the state would receive about $26 billion from the federal government to pay for Medicaid expansion over the next decade. That would be a huge boon to hospitals that are losing other federal funding sources for uninsured patients under the federal health law.

Advocates said Medicaid expansion will bring about 54,000 new jobs to the state and have a significant impact on Florida's tourism and hospitality industries.

Hospital executives have said the expansion will significantly reduce the amount of money spent covering uninsured patients by hospitals, insurers and taxpayers by allowing patients to get coordinated treatment whenever they need it instead of waiting to go to the emergency room.

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