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FL House Adjourns Early In Flap Over Medicaid Expansion

The Florida House provided a surprising twist in the Legislature’s fight over expanding Medicaid on Tuesday, by suddenly adjourning its 2015 session, that action ensures that a special session will be called to complete the budget.

In his remarks, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli blamed the shutdown on the Senate's unwillingness to drop its resolve to bring up a Medicaid expansion alternative before agreeing to a budget.

“I made a promise to you, when you elected me to be your Speaker that I would never ask you to vote for something that I wouldn’t vote for myself” said Crisafulli. “Accordingly, I will not force anyone to expand Medicaid. And so for now, we stand at an impasse with the Senate.”

The House has refused repeatedly to consider any plan that would use Medicaid expansion dollars, including a Senate proposal to tap those funds to help lower-income Floridians purchase private health insurance.

Rep. Doug Broxson, a Republican from Gulf Breeze, said they had zero notice that Crisafulli would shut down the session. However, he also opposes expanding Medicaid, pointing to uncertainty at the federal level.

“It would be an entitlement program, that we would be committed to this until the Lord came,” said Broxson. “For us to make that commitment, and put it on the backs of our citizens, knowing it fits with a tax increase or we would have to reduce services, is simply something that we don’t feel like we can do.”

State Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, says there are a variety of measures from the House, on which the Senate will vote as it continues their session. He adds that the House had a number of Senate-passed bill, from which it’s walking away. One of the bills is Amendment-1, which funds major environmental projects, and was approved by voters in 2014.

As for Crisafulli’s contention that the Senate was holding up the budget process over its proposed Medicaid expansion plan:

“Words matter, and there is no Senate plan to expand Medicaid,” Gaetz said. “There are 830,000 people who don’t have adequate health coverage right now. And so they show up in our hospitals and emergency rooms. Their cost is shifted onto those of us who have coverage.”

Gaetz says since there’s no such thing as free medical care, the real issue is who pays for it?

Meanwhile, Florida awaits word from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, on a plan to extend the $2.2 billion Low Income Pool, or LIP, program past June 30th. LIP pays for uninsured, low-income Floridians.

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday filed a lawsuit in Pensacola Federal Court against the Obama administration. He accuses them of coercing the state to expand Medicaid in order to get one billion dollars in federal hospital funds. Such action, claims the lawsuit, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012.