Major cuts in FL’s Medicaid program looming as GOP lawmakers try to wrap up 2021-22 state budget

By: - April 20, 2021 3:05 pm

Activists demonstrate in a Florida state House office in Miami, in support of expansion of health care coverage. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

While low-income residents rely on Medicaid for health care, state lawmakers working on the 2021-22 state budget are proposing some major cuts in dollars for the Medicaid program.

The proposed reductions come at a time when many advocates have been pushing to expand Medicaid for low-income families. Florida is among a dozen or so states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has been against the expansion.

The Republican-led Florida House and Senate unveiled its proposed state budgets last week, revealing an estimated hundreds of millions in proposed cuts to eliminate certain Medicaid provisions that could hurt families.

While lawmakers often focus on state dollars for various programs, federal dollars also could help expand the Medicaid program and get more health coverage for Florida’s vulnerable population, said Anne Swerlick, senior policy analyst at the Florida Policy Institute.

“These cuts are mainly being proposed by the Senate. There are millions of federal dollars we are giving up,” Swerlick said in a phone conversation with the Florida Phoenix.

The state’s budget proposal includes eliminating many components of the Medicaid program such as reducing hospital inpatient and outpatient hospital rates and coverage for young people aged 19 and 20, she added.

According to an analysis by the health policy group FPI, the Senate’s proposal includes cutting Medicaid coverage for vision, optometric, hearing, podiatric and chiropractor services for adults.

“We are talking about eliminating hearing and vision services, and they are talking about taking away from chiropractic care. These aren’t just fluff services,” she said.

Meanwhile, both chambers have until next Tuesday (April 27) to come to an agreement on a final budget for health care, Swerlick said.

The Florida Voices for Health announced that the health care group will host a virtual news conference Tuesday evening with Democratic lawmakers to urge for Medicaid expansion and discuss detrimental impacts from uninsured rates amid the pandemic.

Those speakers include U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Florida governor, state Sen. Annette Taddeo, of Miami Dade, and Orlando state Rep. Anna Eskamani.

Scott Darius, executive director of the Florida Voices for Health, said in an email to the Phoenix:

“The hardest part about these cuts is that it unnecessarily hurts Floridians, our hospitals, and our state. The federal dollars Medicaid expansion draws down would cover our budget shortfall and the Floridians who have enrolled in Medicaid since the pandemic.”

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.