"We're going to cut funding from these state programs so we can expand a different state program because the feds are going to pay for that for a little while...it seems to me that we're just shifting the same pockets. We're doing more than robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Republican Sen. Anitere Flores.
Several lawmakers also expressed concern that federal health officials will eventually reduce the amount they reimburse states.
Alker suggested Florida take a cue from Ohio, which recently opted to expand Medicaid with the caveat that if federal matching rate decreases, the state will drop out.
Experts also noted an expansion would also significantly impact Florida's tourism and hospitality industries.
"Almost a half million uninsured low-wage Florida workers would be newly eligible and almost all of them are employed in service sector jobs. We need Medicaid expansion to make those workers, many whom are parents, eligible for coverage," said Mellowe.
A handful of executives from public and private hospitals also urged lawmakers to expand Medicaid, noting that it would create about 54,000 new jobs and generate significant spending and reduce the amount of money spent covering uninsured patients by hospitals, insurers and taxpayers, said Mark O'Bryant, president and CEO of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, a public hospital in southwest Florida, treated 200,000 patients last year. About 60,000 of those patients were uninsured and under age 65, costing the hospitals more than $84 million for uncompensated care in 2012, said Gwen McKenzie, president and CEO of the hospital.
The hospital has about 100,000 emergency room visits a year. About half of them are from patients without insurance, she said.
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