With Manatee County voters' rejection of the half-percent sales tax increase to meet local needs for indigent health care, it is now more important than ever for Florida to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid.
This expansion would help cut our local costs for indigent health services; it would also help our state's economy.
Studies show that the optional state expansion of Medicaid would bring an estimated $51 billion in federal money into our state over the next 10 years, as well as create about 121,000 jobs -- two important benefits Florida can ill-afford to leave on the table.
If expanded in Florida under the new federal health care law, Medicaid will cover adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. The federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost of the expansion for the first three years, 2014 through 2016, then pay at least 90 percent of the cost in future years.
Nearly 1 million Floridians would gain access to much-needed healthcare services through this expansion, and the expansion would save large sums of state and local tax dollars.
The decision on expansion will also affect our economy. Without the expansion of Medicaid, many businesses in Florida will be placed at a competitive disadvantage as a result of the rising costs of employee health insurance.
According to recent news reports, state business coalitions representing some of the largest employers in the state are urging state lawmakers to accept the Medicaid expansion.
Failing to do so could create economic disincentives for businesses to locate or expand in Florida. For example, companies in Florida that provide employee health insurance could see their premiums rise as health care providers shift their uncompensated care losses onto them.
The Florida League of Women Voters is urging Gov. Rick Scott to call a special session of the Legislature to reconsider the Medicaid expansion, and end Florida's status as a "donor state" -- with our taxpayer dollars paying for the Medicaid expansions in other states.
The most important legislator to win over for the expansion is Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, who to date has shown little interest in revisiting this issue.
Citizens are encouraged to contact Speaker Weatherford, as well as our county's legislative delegation, to ask them to support the expansion. The contact information for each is available at www.leg.state.fl us.
Lee Pflueger, is president of the League of Women Voters of Manatee County.