TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida is looking to secure an additional $1.1 billion from the federal government to bolster Medicaid funding over the next two years.
The move is being applauded by health care groups, but the request for additional federal dollars isn’t exactly the Medicaid expansion Democrats have been pushing for a decade.
The $1.1 billion request is made possible by the American Rescue Plan, which allows states to draw down 10% more in federal dollars for home and community-based Medicaid services than in previous years.
“This is really called one-time rescue money,” said Executive Director of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council Valerie Breen.
Breen said the programs help elderly and disabled populations that require services at their homes.
“What it will help with is the infrastructure of some of the huge crises that we were seeing,” said Breen.
More than $300 million will be used to cut down on lengthy waitlists to get into the programs, but Miriam Harmatz with the Florida Health Justice Project said the bulk of the funds will go to address chronic staffing shortages.
“And these are people who need a lot of help with the basic activities of daily living who were going days on end, and some living alone, with nobody coming,” said Harmatz.
Before the money can go out, it must be first approved by the federal government and then by state lawmakers.
State Senator Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said just because the state is accepting additional federal funds for these Medicaid programs doesn’t mean lawmakers have shifted their attitude on overall Medicaid expansion.
“No one is talking about Medicaid expansion. This is one-time money to deal with a system that has been stressed, overburdened by COVID,” said Bean.
And while these dollars are a one-time deal, health care groups are pushing Florida’s federal lawmakers to support making the increased funding permanent, especially considering the state’s ever-growing elderly population.
Florida ranks 43rd in the nation on spending for home and community-based services and last in long-term services and supports.