UF study predicts 121,000 jobs created through Medicaid expansion

TALLAHASSEE -- The state's hospitals made the pitch Friday that accepting federal Medicaid dollars available to states willing to insure more poor people under the Affordable Care Act will be an economic engine for Florida.

The Florida Hospital Association released a report by the University of Florida Friday that shows extending health care coverage using the $51 billion in federal funds would create more than 121,000 permanent jobs over the next 10 years.

The UF study, commissioned by the Hospital Association, found that expanding Medicaid -- or finding an alternative that still brings in those federal dollars -- would create 49,494 jobs in the health care industry alone.

Large metro areas stand to benefit the most with the study showing that Miami-Broward-Palm Beach region could gain 44,775 jobs alone. Orange County could get 8,019 jobs and Hillsborough could gain 7,377 jobs.

But the state's plans remain  very much in doubt. Both chambers rejected expanding traditional Medicaid.

The Senate has come out with an alternate proposal that would still draw down those federal dollars, but the House has expressed reservations about taking that money at all.

The House, which unveiled its budget proposal today,  did not include any money or mechanism for a Medicaid expansion alternative, though House Speaker Will Weatherford said both sides were continuing to negotiate.

Alan Hodges, Director of the University of Florida Program in Economic Impact Analysis, said that Florida would be at a "competitive disadvantage" if other states took that money and Florida did not.

"Florida will absolutely be a loser in that game," he said.

Bruce Rueben, President of the Florida Hospital Association, noted that there were still five weeks in the legislative session for lawmakers to come up with a plan that could draw down the federal money.

"We are encouraged that both the House and Senate are going to look at this very seriously and find a way to provide this coverage," he said.

The Hospital Association has long been urging the state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which could be a major boost to their budgets. Hospitals spent $2.8 billion last year providing charitable care to uninsured individuals.

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