Dems Pushing Medicaid

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Democrats are hoping a push to expand Medicaid to more than a million Floridians has some legs for the remainder of legislative session. Lawmakers are concerned Florida is putting in money and getting nothing in return.

Florida Senate Democrats are asking questions about Medicaid expansion. “I call this the ‘what if’ press conference.” As in “what if they were able to use Federal money available to the state.”

Sen. Chris Smith, “$470 million dollars we’re talking about. $470 million dollars in general revenue this year available for Medicaid expansion.”

Expanding the program would cover more than a million working poor residents in the state and free up taxpayer money currently going into the federal system, but not coming back to Florida.

The Senate Democrats brought charts that outlined where the Medicaid expansion money could go. They touted programs like springs restoration, criminal justice, and K through 12 education.

The Senate voted to accept the federal dollars in the 2013 annual session. The measure was killed in the House. Sen. Darren Soto, “If we do nothing, if we continue to play politics as usual, Florida’s environment will continue to degrade.”

Orlando Representative Joe Saunders - who supports expansion - isn’t confident his chamber will decide to accept the money this year. “I worry that we’re going to see more of the same. I’m hoping over the next few weeks there’s still time. Hankies haven’t dropped and we’re still in session.”

A House bill and Senate bill have both been filed to accept federal money. The legislation has yet to be heard by any committees.

Democrats picked the right day to hold their news conference – House and Senate Appropriations committees will put the finishing touches on their budgets this week.