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  1. Business

Florida Chamber endorses Medicaid expansion — with caveats

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Chamber of Commerce said it's willing to endorse Medicaid expansion, as long as the Legislature plays by its rules.

With a carefully worded memo that lists 11 "prerequisites," Florida Chamber president and chief executive Mark Wilson said Friday that accepting federal dollars to reduce the number of uninsured could be the way to go.

"To lower health care costs, provide more Floridians access to quality health care, and make Florida more competitive, this morning the Florida Chamber's Board of Directors voted to support 11 prerequisites as conditions for accepting federal dollars via the new Medicaid option," Wilson wrote. "These prerequisites will help control costs, slow the cost shift, and improve health care outcomes."

Among the Chamber's conditions: controlling the cost and evaluating the success of Medicaid; medical liability tort reform; creating more doctor residency positions; ending the drug repackaging loophole for workers compensation; and looking for ways to move Medicaid patients into private insurance.

Tort reform and drug repackaging are somewhat tangential to the expansion debate but are Chamber legislative priorities.

The Chamber's board members represent some of Florida's biggest employers, including AT&T, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and Shands HealthCare.

This week, the state's other high-profile business group, Associated Industries of Florida, also indicated support for expansion.

Without using the word "Medicaid" or mentioning the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, lobbyist Slater Bayliss said Florida should leverage available federal funds in order to reduce the number of uninsured and the amount of uncompensated care administered at hospitals.

Although neither group gave a ringing endorsement, they did strengthen the position of Gov. Rick Scott, who supports Medicaid expansion.

A key Florida House committee voted this week against expanding Medicaid. A Senate committee meets Monday to discuss the topic.

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