Reality sets in: Dems doubtful that FL Legislature will expand Medicaid for the vulnerable

The Florida Capitol. Credit: Michael Moline

Democratic lawmakers in Florida are renewing calls for Medicaid expansion but the reality is doubtful, with GOP leaders against expanding the health care program for the state’s most vulnerable population.

With less than two weeks left in the 2021 legislative session, Democrats in a virtual news conference Tuesday evening acknowledged that Florida’s Medicaid program will not likely see an expansion and even faces cuts.

As previously reported by the Florida Phoenix, state lawmakers working on the 2021-22 state budget are proposing some major cuts in Medicaid services. Florida is among a dozen or so states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, with Gov. Ron DeSantis against the expansion.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Florida governor, believes that the state will eventually expand Medicaid in the future.

Crist was joined by state lawmakers and health care advocates in Tuesday’s Zoom news conference and said it’s “beyond comprehension” that Florida hasn’t expanded Medicaid yet.

“I’m an optimist…We are going to get Medicaid expansion. It’s going to come,” said Crist, whose name has come up as a potential candidate for governor against DeSantis.

During the news conference, a caregiver in Florida shared her story about grappling with caring for her son living with a disability, without having access to health coverage for herself.

Allison Holmes said her son J.J. has health care through Medicaid but she does not qualify for the program. Holmes added that she needs health care services to be able to continue to take care of her son.

“It’s so much lifting involved. He can’t walk, he can’t support himself to stand up,” she said. “It’s pushing me into a position where I’m not going to be able to take care of him. “

At the same time, “This my life and my life that is responsible for another life. I would do anything to make sure that I can take care of my health to take care of him (her son),” Holmes said.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, encouraged residents to share their stories with lawmakers in their respective districts.

“Talk to those lawmakers after the session is over; get them to commit to cosponsoring a bill. Share your stories,” Eskamani said in the virtual news conference hosted by Florida Voices for Health – a health care advocacy group.

According to Florida Voices for Health, expanding Medicaid in the state would give “caregivers the security” of health coverage as they provide care for vulnerable Floridians.