Democrats urge Medicaid special session, Weatherford says it 'doesn't make sense'
Pressure is mounting on Gov. Rick Scott to call a special session to end the Legislature's impasse on Medicaid expansion. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and the 14 Democratic members of the Florida Senate sent separate letters today making that very request, but Scott isn't likely to oblige them if he doesn't think Republican lawmakers are ready to deal.
At stake is $51 billion in federal funding to providing insurance coverage to 1 million low-income Floridians. House Republicans blocked that from happening during the regular session, which ended Friday.
Neither Scott nor Senate President Don Gaetz have said they would support reconvening the Legislature to address the issue. House Speaker Will Weatherford was cool to the idea when the Times/Herald spoke to him today.
"I don't know what it would achieve," Weatherford said. "Unless there was an agreement of what the session would do, calling one doesn't make sense. We would have to have some agreement on policy, other than drawing down on federal funds."
Weatherford would not say what type of alternative plan he thinks would make a special session a good idea.
Scott may not be keen on calling a special session if he's not assured the Legislature is fully on board and ready to compromise. In 2010, the Florida House famously adjourned a special session convened by then Gov. Charlie Crist after only 49 minutes of work, rejecting his proposal to initiate a ballot referendum on offshore drilling.
Here is the full text of Nelson's letter (Scroll down for a link to download the Senate Democrats' missive.):
Dear Gov. Scott:
In Florida – a state where roughly one-in-five residents not covered by Medicare lack any health-insurance coverage at all - the consequences of the state Legislature’s recent decision not to expand Medicaid loom large.
As you know, in passing the Affordable Care Act, Congress fully funded the expansion of Medicaid coverage to an estimated one million Floridians. And, your announcement last February - when you publicly declared you wouldn’t be the one to “deny” these Floridians this coverage - was seen by many as a “watershed moment” for the nation’s health-care bill.
Now, the Legislature has done exactly what you said you wouldn’t: it has denied these Floridians access to coverage. And now, only you have the chance to remedy the lawmakers’ failure to expand Medicaid to these needy Floridians. Therefore, I urge you to call a special session.
As governor, you have a responsibility to the safety and welfare of all Floridians. And absent further action on your part, hundreds of thousands will continue receiving their medical care in hospital emergency rooms across our state – where the costs are the absolute highest, and taxpayers and policyholders foot-the-bill.
Not only was this an unconscionable and callous decision by the Legislature – it was also a bad decision for many business owners who could now end up paying tax penalties of $2,000 to $3,000 per employee. As a former state treasurer and insurance regulator, I can also tell you one of the ways to curb a rise in premiums is by reducing the high expenses associated with uncompensated and indigent medical care that get passed on to the rest of us.
So, again, I strongly urge you to remedy the Legislature’s inexcusable failure. I look forward to hearing from you on this issue of special importance and working with you to provide Floridians with this much-needed medical coverage.