President Don Gaetz said Tuesday that as the House and Senate work to seek a
middle ground on Medicaid expansion the final product that emerges may be a
melding of the two extremes that puts Florida
at odds with the federal government’s “all or nothing approach.”
“I’m not a lawyer, but our analysis is is that law is not an
all or nothing law,’’ Gaetz told reporters Tuesday, after the Senate floor
session. “We believe there is and there ought to be flexibility for states to
design and implement plans that are not all or nothing.”
He noted that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen
Sebelius, in her letter to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services “took
an all or nothing position” to state’s decision to provide health insurance to
low-income Floridians to be in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. In
other words, they must accept all federal funds, or reject them all, he said.
“Frankly, we believe there is more flexibility in the law
that the secretary thinks there is,” he said.
Does this mean the Republican-led Legislature is prepared to
pass something that could result in a legal conflict with the feds?
Senate is considering two widely different approaches, both of which will be heard on Wednesday in the Senate HHS Appropriations Subcommittee. One bill is by Senate
Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is known as the Healthy Florida
program and would draw down $51 million in federal money over the next decade to
help qualified low-income Floridians buy health insurance with subsidized
other proposal, by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina
Beach, rejects any
federal money and would instead use state money to help people below 100
percent of the federal poverty level pay for health services. The plan is
called the Health Choice Plus program and is similar to a House plan proposed
by Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, which also rejects federal funds.
Gaetz said Tuesday that while both proposals will get a full
hearing in the Senate, “there may be permutations of those options.”
But, he noted, that may set up a conflict with the federal
Sebelius “speaks for the administration,’’ Gaetz said. “My
guess is CMS works for her. They’re going to listen to them, not me, and I
don’t think it should be all or nothing.”
has said that he hopes to reach a middle ground that limits premium assistance
to certain groups of people that are considered the most vulnerable.
“I think that probably the sweet spot is
somewhere near premium assistance for certain groups of people that are the
most vulnerable,” Gaetz said.
said that he was confident the House and Senate would reach agreement before
the end of session on May 3 and dismissed the prospect that they will need a
special session to get the work done.
I don’t think there’s a strong chance of a special session unless the governor
decides to call one,’’ he said. “I don’t think Speaker Weatherford and I
believe that there would be any need for a special session. But I certainly
hope that we could come to some conclusion on health care coverage issues
before the end of the session. We have three ideas, three seriously developed
concepts that have been moving through the process.”