Sen. Bill Nelson Criticizes Florida's Not Expanding Medicaid

Friday, 01 Aug 2014 12:24 PM

By John Blosser

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Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has blasted the Sunshine State's legislature in a speech on the Senate floor for his state's failure to expand Medicaid and set up a state Obamacare exchange and for taking away the insurance commissioner's veto powers over insurance rate increases.

The Washington Times reports that Nelson branded as "unconscionable" Florida's refusal to expand Medicaid to cover 1.2 million low-income Floridians.

"That is why I rise to speak today. I want to let the people of Florida know that the state is not doing its job," Nelson said, according to the Times.

Nelson excoriated the Republican-led Florida legislature's actions on Obamacare, stating, "Folks in Tallahassee have stood in the way of implementation from the beginning. They refused to accept any federal dollars to make it work — even returning a $1 million planning grant.

"In this senator's opinion, the most egregious offense has been the rejection of $51 billion to expand Medicaid to nearly 1.2 million Floridians."

Nelson, the two-term senior senator from Florida, who once served as the state's insurance commissioner, also complained about Florida's passage of Senate Bill 1842 which, he said, stripped the insurance commissioner of the power to "not only approve but reject rate increases which were improper. However, as a result of this state law, the commissioner can no longer say yes or no – only OK."

Recent conflicting court decisions have sewn confusion into Florida's status in the Affordable Care Act.

Since Florida declined to setup a state Obamacare exchange, "nearly 1 million enrollees rely on nearly $5 billion in federal help paying for their new health insurance," the Tampa Tribune reported.

However, one federal court found that only those insured under state-run exchanges were eligible for tax credits to help pay for Obamacare insurance, while another disagreed, and the issue may be headed to the Supreme Court. In Florida, the Tribune reports, 983,775 Floridians signed up for Obamacare, and 91 percent, or 893,655, would lose their tax credits if the first court's decision stands.

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