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White House puts pressure on Florida to expand Medicaid

White House officials tapped elected officials in Florida and Louisiana on Thursday to put pressure on the Republican governors and GOP-dominated legislatures in their states to expand Medicaid as proposed under the Affordable Care Act and and extend health coverage to potentially more than one million people.

During a call with the media featuring White House Deputy Senior Adviser David Simas, Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs, Florida Representative Mark Pafford and Louisiana officials, Simas made an impassioned case that expanding Medicaid coverage to the working poor is the right thing to do.

“This should be about putting people over politics,’’ Simas said. “Yet in 24 states, governors and legislatures are blocking this expansion.’’

Simas said that an estimated 848,000 Floridians could gain coverage if the state’s elected leaders chose to expand Medicaid, something they refused to do during this year’s legislative session.

In Louisiana, Simas said, about 265,000 residents could gain coverage if the governor and legislature were to expand Medicaid.

And he vowed that the White House would continue to press for Florida and Louisiana to accept the federal government’s offer to pay for 100 percent of Medicaid expansion in the first three years and 90 percent thereafter.

“We believe it’s reckless that some governors are so determined to see the health law not succeed that they have refused to expand Medicaid,’’ he said. “We’re going to continue to raise this issue.’’

In Florida, Medicaid expansion this year would bring the state about $51 billion over 10 years, said Rep. Pafford. He said Medicaid expansion would cover mostly poor women and children.

Broward Mayor Kristin Jacobs called Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the state legislature “wrong headed” for turning down Medicaid expansion. She said an estimated 392,000 Broward residents would gain access to health care if state leaders were to expand Medicaid.

“At the end of the day,’’ she said, “the people of Broward County should have access to expanded Medicaid, and just because our governor and legislature said ‘No’ once doesn’t mean they have to take that approach again.’’

Rep. Pafford, the incoming state house Democratic leader, said he suspects that next year’s election cycle, when Gov. Scott will be running for re-election, could lead to increased public pressure on elected officials to expand Medicaid.

He noted that Amanda Murphy, a Democrat, won a special election in October for a state house seat representing Pasco County, which Pafford called “the backyard’’ of Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Republican who has been staunchly opposed to expansion.

“Florida is in the midst of some change,’’ Pafford said, “in terms of an electorate that’s paying attention to things like healthcare. … This was a major issue.’’

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