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Florida advocates launch effort to put Medicaid expansion on 2026 ballot

A Florida advocacy group is launching an effort to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot in 2026, over the overwhelming opposition of the state’s GOP-majority Legislature.

Florida is one of only 10 states that has not expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare, and proponents argue the measure would allow more than 1 million residents to gain coverage.

“With more than 1.4 million Floridians missing out on essential care this expansion would provide, the need to bring this policy across the finish line has never been greater,” said Jake Flaherty, campaign manager for Florida Decides Healthcare, which formally launched the effort Thursday.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays 90 percent of the costs of expanding Medicaid to childless low-income adults. The states are responsible for the remaining 10 percent.

The 2021 American Rescue Plan included a 5 percentage point increase in the federal matching rate for two years after expansion takes effect, which experts have said will more than offset the increased state costs of expansion during those two years. The additional incentive applies whenever a state newly expands Medicaid and does not expire.

Expansion would allow Floridians earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about $20,700 for individuals and $35,600 for a family of three — to qualify for health insurance.

Right now, the only adults eligible for Medicaid in the state are pregnant women, the elderly or disabled and adults with minor children who earn less than $5,314 for a single parent, or $6,713 for a family of three.

The GOP-controlled state Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) have long opposed efforts to expand Medicaid.

State Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R) at the start of this year’s legislative session called expansion “a false government promise.”

The remaining holdout states are all Republican-led, but Medicaid expansion ballot measures have succeeded in Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and South Dakota.

There was a similar effort to get Medicaid expansion to the Florida ballot in 2020, but supporters said the COVID-19 pandemic and shifting requirements for signature-gathering derailed the push.

Supporters must gather 891,523 signatures to get the amendment on the 2026 ballot. It would then need support from 60 percent of voters to succeed.

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