Unlike in the House, which offered no alternatives, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Joe Negron, announced a plan that would have the state bypass Medicaid expansion but access the money available from the feds and have the state create its own plan to help the uninsured.
Negron's plan would include five components: 1) a "benchmark," where everybody would have to pay some minimum amount for coverage (he said it could be on a sliding scale system). 2) Negron wants to use Florida Healthy Kids as the vehicle for the new plan. 3) Patients could have Health Reimbursement Accounts. "As you build up money in your account for exchange for healthy behaviors, you can use these funds. They could also be used for medical expenses that aren't covered." 4) He said that being "on" Medicaid connotes dependency. "I don't want people to be 'on something,'" he said. "I want them to 'have' insurance." 5) And doing what Republicans in Washington haven't been able to do — kill Medicaid. "This will be a beginning of the transformation of a Medicaid system," Negron said.
Negron announced his new plan at the beginning of the two-hour hearing, but didn't unveil details until all those legislators who wanted to could speak about why they would or would not support Medicaid expansion.
Florida could receive up to $51 billion from the federal government over the next 10 years if it signs on to the Medicaid expansion. The first three years would be fully covered by the federal government, with state taxpayers responsible for $5.2 billion over the next seven years.
Not one Republican Senator said they would support Medicaid expansion, perhaps a surprise in that the perception was that the body would be more amenable to Governor Scott's recommendation (and the fact that Senate President Don Gaetz has said that "Obamacare" was the law of the land).
Most of the Senators mocked Medicaid as a loser plan, with Anitere Flores from Miami calling the program a "broken egg." She said the federal government's idea of fixing that would be throw a bunch of eggs against a wall. She said she could not support expanding a broken system.
Lutz state Senator John Legg was the only Republican who sounded like he might support expansion, saying when somebody is sick they don't care if they're getting better through Obamacare, "They just want to get better." Saying doing nothing was not an option, Legg then said he was on the "Negron-Bean" team, alluding to Senator Aaron Bean proposing his own concept of an alternative plan that didn't seem to get anywhere.
Orlando Democrat Darren Soto called Medicaid expansion "perhaps the biggest jobs bill we will vote on, perhaps in our entire career." He said the deal with the federal government would create 55,000 new jobs, which is why the Florida Chamber of Commerce had endorsed the proposal."
Meanwhile Governor Rick Scott, who called for Medicaid expansion but has apparently done nothing to lobby Republicans to support his plan, issued a weak statement immediately after the Senate committee's vote, saying, "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."