Expanding Medicaid in Florida took a potential death blow on March 11.
According to Reuters, the state Senate Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was voting down by a 7-4 vote count, with all of the Republican members of the committee voting against it. This comes after the House legislative committee soundly rejected the expansion the week before. With both the House and Senate committee's voting to reject the expansion of Medicare, a provision championed by Gov. Rick Scott, the bill in its current form his very little chance of seeing daylight in the Florida Legislature. Scott issued a statement to the media after the Senate committee vote, which he wrote:
I am confident that the legislature will do the right thing and find a way to protect taxpayers and the uninsured in our state while the new healthcare law provides 100 percent federal funding.
Scott, who was battling President Barack Obama's plan to expand Medicaid until he had a change of heart on the provision in February, did not elaborate what his office would do next. Scott sent shockwaves through the state Republican Party by endorsing the expansion of Medicaid after he negotiated terms with federal officials to turn the state's Medicaid system over to the private market. Scott joined fellow Republican governors John Kasich of Ohio and Jan Brewer of Arizona in embracing the expansion of Medicaid, citing that it would save their respective states millions in healthcare cost.
The backlash from state Republicans was not unexpected.
According to Reuters, state Republican officials have been hostile to the expansion of Medicaid and pledged to oppose any form of expanded Medicaid in their version of the state budget this year. Allison Tant, the Chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, issued a strong rebuke of the Senate committee's rejection of expanded Medicaid, telling Reuters:
(It is a) stunning rebuke of Gov. Rick Scott and the common-sense policy that ensures more Floridians have access to health insurance coverage they need.
But there could be some light at the end of the tunnel.
State political analyst told Reuters that a revival of the expansion bill was possible, citing that the Medicaid expansion has the blessing of the powerful Florida Chamber of Commerce. Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida in Tampa, told Reuters:
I don't think the door is totally closed, but there's only a toe left keeping it open right now.