FL Democrats put pressure on Gov. DeSantis, Senate to support Medicaid expansion for pregnant women

Protestors carry signs as they demonstrate against proposed cuts to health care programs, including Medicaid. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Two Democratic leaders in the Florida Senate called on Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Senate President Wilton Simpson to support a proposal by the Biden administration for states to expand Medicaid coverage for pregnant women and their newborns.

Wednesday, state Sens. Gary Farmer and Lauren Book praised efforts by House Speaker Chris Sprowls for his “progressive announcement to expand Medicaid maternal benefits to low income pregnant women.”

The American Rescue Plan – signed by President Joe Biden earlier in March – authorizes states the option to offer postpartum coverage under Medicaid for a year following a baby’s delivery. Before that, it was 60 days.

Both Farmer and Book are members of the Committee on Health Policy and represent part of Broward County.

“This is a wonderful first step in putting Floridians’ tax dollars to work for Floridians’ health care. And we hope the Governor and the Senate President follow suit,” Farmer and Book said in a joint statement.

It’s unclear if DeSantis and Simpson will lend their support to the initiative. But both chambers of the Legislature will be discussing the budget this week, according to Katherine Betta, spokeswoman for the Florida Senate.

Sprowls, a Republican representing part of Pinellas County, declared a plan on Tuesday to tackle inequities in maternal health care by pushing for the one-year expansion for maternal Medicaid benefits.

Sprowls was joined by state House members during a news conference but did not mention Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package signed earlier this March that added a provision to the Medicaid program by giving states the option to extend postpartum coverage from two months to a full year.

As previously reported by the Florida Phoenix, the extension in Medicaid coverage for that group will likely go through the state budget process, according to Scott Darius, executive director of Florida Voices for Health.

And many Democrats and advocacy groups in the state continue to push for Medicaid expansion, to help low income residents with health care, amid the COVID-19.

“But we can and should go so much further. By fully expanding Medicaid, we would not only ensure health care during pregnancy, but health care for all stages in the lives of the working poor in Florida,” Farmer and Book said in the joint statement.