Disagreement of Medicaid Expansion Hinders Florida’s Budget

Florida Legislature still hasn’t come to an agreement on the state budget due to differing positions on the expansion of Medicaid.

 The Senate budget has a plan to embrace president Obama’s plan to expand Medicaid, while the House budget does not.

The Senate’s version meets the requirements of the Affordable Care Act to receive federal funding for approximately 800,000 uninsured Florida citizens.

For the past two years, the House has been against that plan and countered with a plan that falls short of necessary funding requirements.

Typically, both sides will not agree and once both sides present their ideal budgets, their disagreements are sent to budget conference.  There, a unified budget is established.

Due to the strong opposing views, the budget has yet to be moved to conference.

 “Right now we are in a state of flux. There’s a fiscal divide between the House budget and Senate budget, and we’re at a bit of an impasse on how to close that gap,” says Representative Dwight Bullard, D-Fl. “Until we figure that out we can’t move into conference mode to define what the final budget is going to look like.”

The Florida state budget is about $73 billion.  Normally, House and Senate budget disagreements contrast by millions of dollars.  In this situation, Medicaid expansion is a concrete rift that has left them off by billions.

“There’s a five billion dollar difference between the Senate proposed budget and the House proposed budget. Much of that five billion concerns Medicaid expansion,”

said Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-Fl..  “At this point it appears that the sides are not really talking about reasonable compromise or meeting each other.”

House Appropriations Chair and Speaker Designate, Rep. Richard Corcoran has taken a very firm stance in not expanding Medicaid. Due to this stance, the Senate is

not willing to discuss or even engage the House in trying to negotiate for a full legislature budget to send to Gov. Rick Scott. 

Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Fl., among other house members, believes the budget’s standstill is stemming from personal ideology.

“Corcoran is certainly in the driver’s seat. I tend to think he believes he has a better plan, a more sound, fiscally responsible plan for providing health care,” said Antone.

“However, it’s a plan that only provides health care to about 400, 000 people, versus the Senate plan that would provide for 800,000.”

The constitutional duty for the House and Senate members is to pass a budget each and every year.

 The members have until May 1st to decide and vote on a final budget. 

If no budget is agreed upon by then, session may be extended or it can end and members return for a special session. 

The fiscal year ends June 30, 2015.

 If no budget is passed by then, a continuance will pass to keep funding for three months or can possibly result in a statewide shutdown.