George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

The Flor⁠i⁠da Curren⁠t⁠: Flor⁠i⁠da Chamber of Commerce hears Med⁠i⁠ca⁠i⁠d deba⁠t⁠e

By: The James Madison Institute / 2013

The president or the Florida Hospital Association told Florida Chamber of Commerce leaders Thursday that Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to expand Medicaid access for about 1 million poor people would be good for business by sending about $30 billion rippling through the state’s economy in the next 10 years.However, the head of the James Madison Institute, a conservative Tallahassee policy-study organization, warned that Medicaid rolls will “explode” if so-far skeptical lawmakers go along with the governor’s turnabout on Medicaid expansion.Scott, who stunned and angered some of his most conservative supporters by changing his position on Medicaid eligibility expansion Feb. 20, told reporters at the Capitol on Thursday that it’s very early in the legislative session and that he hopes lawmakers will eventually see it his way. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has bluntly rejected Scott’s plan.The Florida Chamber held a morning forum featuring FHA President Bruce Rueben and JMI chief Bob McClure. The Chamber board has not taken a position on Scott’s plan, but is expected to consider it before wrapping up its three-day annual Capitol Days conference.”You’re going to have fewer uninsured, meaning you’re going to have a healthier workforce, and you’re going to take the level of uncompensated care down,” said Rueben, estimating the cost of unpaid services at $1.3 billion. “If you have a healthier workforce and you have an influx of roughly $30 billion in federal funds in the next 10 years that will cycle through our economy, which will stimulate the creation of jobs — not government jobs but private sector jobs — you can see that the overall net is an advantage for Florida.”McClure cited Social Security, Medicare and the U.S. Postal Service, which he said is “on the road to bankruptcy.” He warned that the federal government can’t be counted on to continue paying the full cost. That was the warning Weatherford used Tuesday, when he called the promise of federal money “laughable.””You’re going to have this explosion of the rolls. You will have lots of newly eligible people who will hop onto the rolls,” McClure said. “In the short term, the hospitals may see an influx of dollars; but long-term, we’ll be back here in another three to five years.”Rueben said national health care is “a fundamental reality” and that the federal money will go to Florida or other states.”The people of Florida, the businesses of Florida, will pay for this law,” he said. “The only answer for that is for Florida to say yes to the coverage, which would provide health insurance for roughly 1 million to 1.5 million Floridians who are uninsured.”Talking with Capitol reporters after the state Cabinet meeting, Scott said he is concentrating on his top priorities of the session: a $2,500 teacher pay raise and repeal of the sales tax on manufacturing equipment.”I let everybody know my position with regard to Medicaid expansion,” he said. “My position, I think, is the right position for Florida families. Now, the legislative process is just starting and hopefully they will do the right thing.”Reporter James Call contributed to this report.Contact reporter Bill Cotterell at bcotterell@thefloridacurrent.com