Florida group launches campaign to put Medicaid expansion on 2026 ballot

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By Giselle Balido

February 2, 2024

After years of opposition from Republican leaders, a state coalition is seeking to put Medicaid expansion in the hands of voters on the 2026 ballot. Here’s how you can help.

Every day is a struggle for Alison Holmes.

The mother of two is the primary caregiver for her disabled son, JJ, who is in a wheelchair and needs round the clock care.

That work takes a toll on Alison physically, and to make matters worse, she is unable to get the healthcare she needs because she lacks health insurance. More specifically, Holmes doesn’t qualify for Medicaid. That means she is not getting the regular, preventive medical care she needs.

“I just don’t understand why my mom can’t get health care,” JJ, who has cerebral palsy, said during a virtual press call this week. “Every day I try as hard as I can to make it easier for her when she lifts me, but I know I’m hurting her, and I don’t know what to do. I wish people could see how hard her life is and see how much pain she’s in. If they did, they’d understand how important this is.”

But if Florida expanded the public health insurance program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as 40 other states have done, Holmes is one of an estimated 1.4 million Floridians who would become eligible for coverage.

Florida’s Republican-controlled state government has refused to expand Medicaid for more than a decade, and State Senate President Kathleen Passidomo told lawmakers in her opening speech of this year’s legislative session that expansion “is not going to happen.”

But now, a state coalition is seeking to put the decision of whether to expand Medicaid in the hands of voters on the 2026 ballot. 

Florida Decides Healthcare on Thursday announced a petition campaign for a constitutional amendment that would expand Medicaid access to adults earning at or below 138% of the federal poverty level, or an income of $20,120 a year for one person.

RELATED: FL Senate president: ‘Medicaid expansion is not going to happen’

To make it onto the 2026 ballot, the coalition needs to get nearly 1 million validated petitions from Florida voters throughout the state. The Florida Supreme Court will then have to uphold the amendment’s language. After that, 60% of voters will have to approve the amendment for it to take effect.

During a virtual press conference with campaign coalition members held on Thursday, Jake Flaherty, Campaign Manager of Florida Decides Healthcare, highlighted the group’s goals: 

“Expanding Medicaid would increase the financial stability of families who would otherwise face crippling medical debt,” Flaherty said. 

He also dispelled the myth that expanding Medicaid would cost taxpayers more money. In fact, it is just the opposite.

“Expanding Medicaid would be paid by tax dollars that Floridians have already sent to Washington,” he explained. “Right now, we all pay federal taxes, we all send money to our government, and in other states that money is going back to their home to pay for healthcare for their people. We in Florida deserve to have our tax dollars work for us, and that’s what Medicaid expansion does.”

With an increased federal match, the cost savings from expanding Medicaid is expected to save Floridians more than $220 million annually. It would also, Flaherty added, “result in the creation of more than 130,000 new jobs” and provide a $44 billion boost to Florida’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in just two years.

RELATED: Over 2.5 Million Floridians Lack Health Insurance and DeSantis Still Won’t Expand Medicaid

Most importantly, expanding Medicaid could provide healthcare to hardworking Floridians who fall into Florida’s health care gap.

Dr. David Woolset, an Emergency Physician at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s ER who participated in the press conference, talked about his concerns about ER patients dying from an ailment they might otherwise survive if they were able to get regular check-ups, and explained his belief that expanding Medicaid would help “provide better health outcomes.”

Flaherty, however, is optimistic that Floridians will help push the initiative through. A poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy in March 2023 shows strong support for Medicaid expansion among Florida voters, with 76% in favor of the policy, which is well above the 60% threshold required for ballot initiative succeed.

To help in the effort to expand Medicaid in Florida, you can sign the petition, make a donation or sign up for regular updates and information on how you can help improve healthcare access for Floridians.

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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