Feb 2, 2024 - News

Florida group seeks to put Medicaid expansion before voters

Illustration of a hand casting a ballot in the shape of a red cross

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Policy experts and health care providers are again trying to enshrine Medicaid expansion in Florida's constitution through a ballot initiative.

Why it matters: The petition, unveiled Thursday, seeks to open Medicaid's doors to millions of uninsured Floridians.

  • Florida is one of 10 states that haven't expanded Medicaid and is one of the leading drivers of the country's drop in Medicaid coverage for kids.

Details: The ballot summary reads, Florida must "provide Medicaid coverage to individuals over age 18 and under age 65 whose incomes are at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level."

  • The Florida Policy Institute, UnidosUS and SEIU Florida are among the organizations supporting the ballot initiative.

Between the lines: Florida's GOP-led legislature is firmly against the expansion of Medicaid.

  • State Senate President Kathleen Passidomo dismissed Medicaid as a solution to the state's health care crisis at the opening of this year's session, calling it "a false government promise."
  • Experts disagreed. "People who gain Medicaid coverage under expansion are more financially secure, have greater access to care, and experience better health outcomes," Matthew Fiedler, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Axios.

Be smart: Ballot amendments offer advocates a way to sidestep legislative standstills, with varied success. This year, two measures have qualified for next year's ballot: one for abortion rights, another for recreational marijuana.

  • Those measures are still awaiting approval from Florida's conservative Supreme Court, which will decide whether they'll make it on the ballot.
  • In Florida, lawmakers have undercut constitutional amendments with new laws, rollout snags and legal clashes.

Zoom out: Advocates in Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and South Dakota – all Republican-led states – have taken Medicaid expansion to the voters and won.

What they're saying: "With more than 1.4 million Floridians missing out on essential care, the push to get this policy across the finish line has never been greater," campaign manager Jake Flaherty said Thursday.

What's next: Supporters must gather 891,523 signatures to get the amendment on the 2026 ballot. It would then need support from 60% of voters to succeed.

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