In a media call Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stressed that Florida can still choose to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
During the legislative session, state lawmakers rejected Medicaid expansion, an optional piece of the federal health law. But the federal government said there's no real deadline, and they're trying to keep the conversation going with the states that opted against expansion.
"There is this group in the middle who will not have access to coverage even while the federal funds for Medicaid expansion are there on the table," said Paul Dioguardi, director of the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "This coverage is critical because the tax credits in the law's new health insurance marketplace place don't kick in until people hit 100 percent of the poverty level."
The federal government will pay the full cost of Medicaid expansion for 2014, 2015 and 2016. The portion paid by the federal government will eventually taper down to 90 percent by 2020 and remain there, under the law.
"We’re still hopeful that Florida will take this generous offer," Dioguardi said.
State Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, said Republicans and Democrats are too far apart on the issue, and there is no chance Gov. Rick Scott will call a special session.
"It's going to be very difficult to come to any decision unless there's a spark," Bean said. "I think that spark comes from the federal government that says OK, we're going to let individual states be flexible, and Florida, you're able to take a baby step. Maybe just take a baby step, maybe expand just a little bit and put your big toe in the water and check the temperature. Maybe that's what's needed to go forward."