For mothers and babies in Florida who rely on health care through Medicaid, the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature has made a promise: After a mother births a child, both mom and babies will have health coverage for a full year, up from two months currently.
Florida’s 2021-22 state budget includes nearly $240 million for the initiative, a state-federal Biden administration program for families with low incomes who need access to the Medicaid program.
In the politics of it all, Florida hasn’t expanded Medicaid in the way that many states have, but House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Republican, spearheaded the effort for moms and babies. The Florida Senate followed suit in helping secure funds for a one-year expansion for postpartum Medicaid coverage.
The money was negotiated as lawmakers crafted the state budget in the waning days of the legislative session. While the budget has wrapped up, the House and Senate will formally vote on the massive document on Friday.
The precise language in the budget shows $239.8 million to extend postpartum coverage for eligible mothers to “12 months or 365 days” under Florida’s Medicaid program.
Currently, the Medicaid program in Florida for postpartum mothers and children covers two months, or 60 days. As previously reported by the Florida Phoenix, Sprowls joined with House Democrats to roll out a plan in late March to address inequities in maternal health outcomes that disproportionately impact Black women.
To fund the program, the Florida Legislature’s budget includes continued state funds of $89.2 million from one budget category and $150.6 million in federal funds.
Meanwhile, health care advocacy groups as well as Democrats in the Legislature have been pushing for an overall expansion to Medicaid, a program that helps low-income families cover a variety of health care services.
Florida is among 12 or so states that have refused to expand Medicaid and Gov. Ron DeSantis has been against it too.
“We are thrilled that the legislature is making this new investment in mothers and their babies,” Anne Swerlick, senior policy analyst at the Florida Policy Institute, said in an email to the Phoenix.
“But this is just the first step. The most effective and fiscally responsible way of addressing the maternal health crisis in this state is to do the one-year extension of postpartum coverage in conjunction with Medicaid expansion.”
But GOP lawmakers have resisted efforts to expand Medicaid overall, even when the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan offered financial incentives.
Senate Democrats recently announced a proposed spending plan on health care including $520 million to expand Medicaid but it was rejected.
And lawmakers have failed to use some $3.5 billion in federal COVID dollars to help Floridians. Overall, the GOP-led chambers agreed on only $6.7 billion out of the $10.2 billion available.