Florida Politics: “Kionne McGhee asks Ron DeSantis to expand Medicaid during coronavirus outbreak”

A top Democrat is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend Medicaid benefits to those who would normally not get it.

The number of positive novel coronavirus cases in Florida rose above 500 Friday to a total of 520, up 88 cases. The death toll also increased to 10. The 520 count includes 46 non-residents tested and isolated in the state.

House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee has sent a letter to the governor asking him to suspend coverage cancellations for people currently enrolled in Medicaid by extending eligibility re-determination periods until novel coronavirus pandemic subsides. He also wants DeSantis to temporarily extend coverage to low-income Floridians whose incomes are under 100% of the federal poverty level. He says those people are caught in the “coverage gap” between Florida Medicaid eligibility and getting subsidized coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. 

McGhee is also asking the governor to direct the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families to authorize Medicaid medical providers to immediately enroll patients into Medicaid while waiting on their full applications to process.

He says this move is necessary because of the number of people losing their jobs. 

“There are people out here who no longer have access to healthcare due to them being laid off because of the coronavirus,” he said.

The Department of Labor has asked Florida and other states to withhold specifics about the number of unemployment claims being filed. Spokeswoman Tiffany Vause says they normally release the information a week later so that it doesn’t affect the financial markets.

DOL data shows for the week that ended on March 7th, Florida was one of the states with one of the largest increases for initial claims filed. For that week, claims rose by 472.  And Vause says they have seen a drastic increase in the number of applications filed, compared with last week. 

DOL says the increase here and in other states is clearly attributed to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“Our call volume Monday – Wednesday was more than 76,000 calls,” she said in an email response. “Last week we had just shy of 28,000 calls for the entire week.”

If the governor were to move to expand Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of Floridians could qualify for coverage. McGhee says it wouldn’t cost the state because it would leverage substantial federal dollars. 

“In fact the state would benefit from having the draw down from the federal government to cover the health expenses that we’re facing as a state,” he said. “If the governor does decide to extend eligibility.”

DeSantis issued an executive order Friday suspending open meeting laws that require a quorum of people to present in person to hold a meeting or requires a local government body to meet at a specific public place. Governmental bodies will be allowed to meet telephonically and through video conferencing.

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