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Hospitals willing to consider Medicaid expansion alternative

While still joining the push for Florida to expand Medicaid, hospital advocates said they would welcome an alternative as long as the state doesn't lose out on the federal funding that would come with expansion. But Rep. Mike Fasano is saying the state already has it's alternative: the Medicaid managed care waiver.

Florida Hospital Association President Bruce Rueben said the guiding principles for a new program for the uninsured outlined by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, on Monday sound "promising."

"What we want is for peple to be covered," Rueben said. "So however the state finds its way to getting perhaps a million Floridians access to health insurance is what we want to see happen.”

Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, has a similar outlook. He said the goal is ensuring health coverage for uninsured Floridians because hospital funding cuts are coming even if that doesn't happen.

"If they don’t expand Medicaid and if we don't get these peple covered in some other way, we’re going to lose hundreds of millions of dollars that we’re getting from the federal government today to help subsidize that care," Carvalho said.

Both men joined a crowd of hospital executives and workers, as well as some patients, at a press conference under the Florida Remedy banner this morning. That campaign, headed by the hospital association, is advocating for Medicaid expansion but still leaving open the possibility that an alternative could meet its objectives.

Fasano, the only Republican lawmaker to publicly support Medicaid expansion, spoke during the event. He said the state should expand Medicaid, even if it's just a short-term fix while a grand solution is finalized. But he also criticized his colleagues, saying the current discussion is merely a "cop out" to avoid implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Fasano pointed out that the Medicaid managed care waiver the state received the day Gov. Rick Scott announced he would support expansion was supposed to be the fruit of Republicans' efforts to reform the program. So why are they already pivoting to something else?, Fasano asked.

"They’re saying that the program that’s not even been implemented -- we just got the waivers from the federal government to implement a Medicaid reform program that the Legislature and the governor created two years ago -- and they’re saying that’s broken?" Fasano said. "How can something that they reformed that has not fully been implemented yet, how can they say it's broken? It's another excuse not to accept federal dollars and help those who need help.”