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Are More Floridians Looking at Medicaid in the Pandemic?

The number of Floridians relying on the state’s health care safety-net program continues to push higher amid the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some new research shows that enrollment in Florida’s Medicaid program grew by nearly 7.7% between February and May, and at least one analysis puts the growth rate even higher.

The Orlando Sentinel recently reported on this in an article titled “More Floridians turn to Medicaid during pandemic,” According to the article, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration’s reports that 4.06 million people were enrolled in Medicaid by the end of May. That was an increase from about 3.77 million in February—the final month prior to the economic shutdown and spread of COVID-19 in the Sunshine State.

The Center for Children and Families in Washington, D.C. is monitoring Medicaid enrollment in 15 states, including Florida. Based on its analysis, Florida has experienced close to a 10% increase in overall enrollment between February and May.

Florida’s 10% is the biggest enrollment increase in the states that the Center for Children and Families is tracking. The figures recently released by the state Department of Economic Opportunity said Florida’s unemployment rate in May was 14.5%, with its tourism-reliant economy lackluster.

The Center for Children and Families is also looking at the number of Florida children who are enrolling in Medicaid, which it said has increased 6.5% during the pandemic. They say the spike in Medicaid enrollment was expected after the pandemic shut down businesses. Congress agreed to increase the federal government’s share of costs for new enrollees by 6.2 percentage points. The increase added $899 million to Florida’s coffers for the current fiscal year, which will end June 30.

However, despite the increased funding, state Medicaid officials said the arrival of new people into the program could shoot a $1 billion hole in the state’s budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Lawmakers in Florida have formally sent the proposed 2020-2021 budget to Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis has line-item veto power and will act on the spending plan before the end of the month. The governor vowed to be aggressive with his veto to bring the more than $93 billion plan in line.

Before Florida’s economy collapsed, lawmakers had designed an election-year budget that would up teacher pay by $500 million, provide $200 million in pay raises to state workers and increase funding for community-based programs for those with developmental disabilities by more than $100 million.

Placed throughout the budget are hundreds of millions of dollars for hometown projects pushed by individual lawmakers, including nearly $100 million in health-care related projects.

Reference: Orlando Sentinel (June 22, 2020) “More Floridians turn to Medicaid during pandemic”

Suggested Key Terms: Medicaid, Legislation

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