BRADENTON – Another study is arguing that Florida can save costs if it goes along with a planned federal expansion of Medicaid, as part of health care reform. The study that was released this week, and follows one with a similar conclusion this month, argues that while the expansion would mean more people on the rolls, it would also remove many of them from more expensive state and local safety net programs.
Florida’s Medicaid program currently costs a little more than $21 billion, with the federal government picking up 56 percent of the tab. According to a report issued by the Urban Institute and Kaiser Family Foundation Monday, Florida’s cost is expected to rise 4.6 percent over the next 10 years. However, the report also says that when factoring in the cost of care for providing for the uninsured that will be covered under the upcoming expansion, that rise would be reduced to 3.4 percent over the same time.
So while Florida's high number of uninsured will mean the initial expansion will require an investment, overall, the state, along with local governments who currently share in much of the costs for providing care for those not covered, is expected to see a net reduction in cost.
“Overall, it’s hard to conclude anything else than that it’s going to be pretty attractive and hard for states to turn away from,” said John Holahan, director of the Health Policy Research Center at the Urban Institute, in a conference call with reporters Monday.
Earlier this month, another study by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute suggested that Florida could save up to $100 million a year by expanding Medicaid coverage and scaling back on state-funded mental health and substance abuse service programs, as well as other hospital safety net funds, which it said patients wouldn't have to rely on as often if they were covered by Medicaid. The report estimated that between 800,000 and 1.3 million additional Floridians could qualify for coverage if the state expanded its Medicaid rolls.
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature will have to decide whether to get on board in the upcoming legislative session that begins in the spring. Medicaid expansion is just one component of the Affordable Care Act (often called Obamacare), which was designed to extend health care to more Americans, while expanding preventative care to reduce overall costs. The law expands Medicaid by raising eligibility limits to qualify for the program. Currently, about 3.3 million poor and disabled Floridians are covered by Medicaid.