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House committee says 'no' to Medicaid expansion

With a straight party-line vote, the House Select Committee on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act voted against expanding Medicaid today.

Republican members took turns making a case against Medicaid expansion, saying it would increase the federal deficit,  diminish health care delivery to the elderly and other Floridians, and would drastically grow an already problem-laden program. Democrats cut in to offer support for Medicaid expansion, saying it made no sense for the state to reject billions of federal dollars and that the positive outcomes of Medicaid outweighed the bad.

Of course, Republicans hold a majority of seats on the committee and the final vote was 10-5 in favor of Rep. Matt Hudson's motion to direct staff not to write any legislation that would implement Medicaid expansion.

Comparing the federal government's offer to pay 100 percent of the expansion costs for the first three years and at least 90 percent after that, Hudson said Florida shouldn't be swayed by a “few pieces of silver” and ignore the long-term implications of adding about 900,000 people to the Medicaid rolls.

“We know that it hasn’t always worked out so well when people look at short-term gain instead of long-term vision," Hudson said.

Earlier in the meeting, the House PPACA committee unanimously agreed that Florida should not move forward with creating a health exchange. The state has already missed the deadline to launch an exchange in 2014, and both Democrats and Republicans agree the task should remain with the federal government for the time being. 

After the meeting, House Speaker Will Weatherford released a statement praising the committee's decisions. 

"I received their recommendations and agree that expanding Medicaid and setting up a state exchange is not in the best interest of our state," Weatherford said. "We simply cannot count on the federal government to pay 100 percent of the cost for expansion. The facts show that healthcare costs will go up for many Floridians, while access to and quality of healthcare will go down."

Democrats who serve on the House PPACA committee said they were frustrated by the vote. Minority Leader Perry Thurston called it "morally reprehensible" and Rep. Dwight Dudley said the decision showed a "lack of vision."

Dudley, of St. Petersburg, said Democrats also shouldn't count on Republicans to make good on their pledge to work on an alternative to Medicaid expansion, such as using federal subsidies to allow low-income Floridians to purchase private insurance.

"You didn't hear any solutions, you didn't hear any alternative ideas or plans," Dudley said. "That's pretty appalliing considering they're willing to kill this, something that is a plan, something real that people can access and have."

Meanwhile, the Senate's PPACA special committee cancelled it's meeting this afternoon where they had planned to also discussion Medicaid expansion. Instead, members agreed to wait until new cost estimates are released later this week. They also asked for time to work behind the scenes and meet with consumer groups regarding some proposed insurance regulation changes.

That meeting hasn't yet been rescheduled. The current schedule has Senate PPACA gathering next on March 11, but additional time on Thursday or Friday is likely.