For the first time, members of the Florida Medical Association have approved a resolution endorsing Medicaid expansion, a politically contentious issue that the group's leaders have generally avoided over the last two legislative sessions.
By unanimous voice vote at the FMA's annual conference in Orlando on Sunday, several hundred members approved a resolution written by South Florida obstetrician/gynecologist Aaron Elkin calling for FMA to publicly support expanding Medicaid eligibility as long as the program "safeguarded patient access to care while increasing Medicaid payment rates to Medicare levels for all physicians."
The resolution, which had the support of several South Florida medical societies, had been recommended by an FMA committee on Saturday.
A statement from FMA's general counsel, Jeff Scott, focused on the part of the resolution calling for higher payment rates. The voting members are known as the House of Delegates and include representatives of county medical societies and specialty societies.
"In passing this resolution, the House of Delegates recognized that increased access to care for an enlarged Medicaid population will only come about if there are adequate numbers of physicians to care for these patients," Scott said. "It is also understood that current payment levels (which in many instances do not cover the cost to provide care) are grossly inadequate and serve as a disincentive to physician participation in the Medicaid program."
The politically influential FMA has in the past reserved its considerably lobbying firepower for other issues, such as malpractice reform. Powerful Republican leaders, including House Speaker Will Weatherford, are adamantly opposed to giving Medicaid coverage to a greater number of low-income adults. Although it is a key component of the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid eligibility was left up to the states, which administer the program jointly with the federal government.
Florida's refusal to expand the program leaves around 800,000 Floridians without health insurance, as they can't qualify for Medicaid under current qualification rules and are too poor to qualify for federal tax subsidies that help pay for private insurance.