SW Florida business coalitions warn Medicaid failure will hurt

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauJune 21, 2013 

TALLAHASSEE -- Two business-backed health insurance coalitions sent a warning signal Wednesday to Florida's employers about the effects of rejecting Medicaid expansion for the uninsured.

In a nutshell: Brace yourselves; this is bad for business.

They argue if lawmakers continue to turn away an estimated $51 billion in federal money to pay for expanding Medicaid coverage, companies will restrict growth, businesses will flee to states with more competitive health insurance markets and any company left standing that pays for health insurance will see its premiums rise as hospitals and doctors shift losses to them.

"It will further the upward pressure of the cost shift to the commercially insured patients," said William Kramer, health care policy expert from the Pacific Business Group on Health in a conference call with reporters. The coalition represents large businesses in 50 states -- from Walt Disney Co., Target, Walmart and Boeing to Wells Fargo. In other words, health care reform won't reduce costs for employers and employees in Florida; it will increases costs, they said.

Florida lawmakers adjourned in early May without taking action on drawing down the federal Medicaid money. They have until Jan. 14, 2014, to decide.

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz have been touring the state for post-session town hall meetings and have said they have no plans to address Medicaid expansion soon.

"It's really frustrating to see there hasn't been any discussion," said Karen van Caulil, president of the Florida Health Care Coalition, which represents some of the state's largest businesses, in a conference call organized by the League of Women Voters.

Kramer said large employers want states such as Florida to accept the feder

al offer and business groups are ramping up efforts to get the word out in time to persuade legislators to change course.

The Affordable Care Act assumed all states would expand Medicaid rolls and the number of uninsured would shrink, Kramer said, so the federal government is phasing out the funds for uncompensated care.

That will work in 24 states already moving forward with plans to expand Medicaid, Kramer said. But 20 states, including Florida, have rejected Medicaid expansion, so the cost of uncompensated care won't shrink and the cost will be borne by large employers.

So while the Affordable Care Act was designed to reduce the cost of health insurance by insuring more people, in states that reject Medicaid expansion, Kramer warned, the opposite will happen.

"For most business, this is not a political issue,'' he said. "Most businesses are very pragmatic. They are very concerned that if Medicaid is not expanded there will be this continuing cost shift to employers and employees."

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