Expanding Medicaid Would Save Florida $100 Million Per Year

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has been an outspoken opponents of President Obama’s landmark health reform law over the past year. Back in July, he announced that his state would not be setting up a health insurance exchange or expanding the Medicaid program under Obamacare, even though his state has some of the worst rates of uninsurance in the nation.

But now that Obama has won re-election and the health law’s implementation is marching forward, Scott has showed some signs that he may consider softening his stance. And a new report from Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute could give him even more reason to do, since it concludes that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion would save Florida about $100 million each year while extending health coverage to those who need it most:

The researchers determined the state could save up to $100 million a year because allowing people to join Medicaid would reduce the financial burden on other state-funded safety net programs.

“It is time for Florida’s elected officials to take a serious look at this option,” said Joan Alker, research associate professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. “Our study found that the state can actually save money while ensuring that a million Floridians can get the health coverage they desperately need. And this decision affects all Floridians as Florida’s hospitals will be put in jeopardy if the state does not move forward.”

Scott has said that he opposes expanding Medicaid in his state because — even though the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the expansion during the first three years, and at least 90 percent of the expansion’s costs after 2020 — he worries that it will be too expensive after 2020. But Georgetown researchers predict that since the expansion will actually strengthen the health care safety net in Florida, the reduced strain on other social programs will more than offset the costs of covering more low-income Floridians.

As the authors of the report put it, “Extending Medicaid coverage to Florida citizens should have positive effects in terms of lower mortality, less illness, improved economic stability and a higher quality of life for those gaining coverage. In turn, improved health may well lead to lower overall health costs for both these individuals and the state.”

Other researchers have also documented the potential cost-saving effects of expanding Medicaid in Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. And public opinion is on their side, since nearly two-thirds of white Southerners support expanding Medicaid. Nevertheless, Republican governors like Scott continue to stand in the way, ultimately sabotaging their low-income residents and their states’ own bottom lines.