(The Center Square) – A proposed Senate resolution calls for lawmakers to place a state constitutional amendment question on the ballot in 2022, asking voters to require a two-thirds majority margin of the Florida Legislature to enact any measure installing a single-payer health care system in the state.
Senate Joint Resolution 340, filed by Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah Gardens, would establish Section 22 of Article III in the Florida Constitution “to provide that a single-payer health care system may not be enacted by the Legislature except through legislation approved by two-thirds of the membership of each house of the legislature and presented to the Governor for approval.”
With Democrats outnumbered in the Senate, 24-16, and in the House, 72-48, it’s unimaginable the Republican-controlled Legislature seriously would contemplate adopting such a system.
Diaz told The Capitolist that SJR 340, which does not have a House companion yet, is a precautionary measure against potential attempts by the incoming Joe Biden Administration to push the 11 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – including Florida – to do so as part of a gradual transition to a federal single-payer health care system.
“I view a single-payer system as a socialist government run program that would lower the quality of care for our residents dramatically,” he said. “I believe that this system would place our resident’s current plans at risk.”
Noting the ACA provides waivers to potentially fund to state-level single-payer health systems, Diaz said most Democrats – including Florida’s 11 congressional Democrats – at minimum support expanding Medicaid under the ACA to include uninsured childless adults with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level, or “Medicare for All.”
The resolution is an attempt to “be clear and set up our state in a posture to protect our residents and their private health insurance” from pressure by Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration, Diaz said.
Biden supports lowering Medicare’s eligibility age and a “Medicare-like” public option to compete with private health insurance but not a “Medicare-for-All” expansion.
Proponents – and opponents – say it is a transitional plan that could pave the way to an eventual nationwide single-payer system.
Raising alarm among Republicans is Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a vocal proponent of Medicare for All.
As HHS chief, Becerra can issue "innovation waivers" to finance an experimental prototype single-payer system, for which consumer advocates are lobbying.
Diaz’s SJR 340 is set to be reviewed first by the Senate's Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services led by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, before the 2021 legislative session begins March 2.
Hearings during the session also await before the before the Senate’s Health Policy, Appropriations and Rules committees.
The resolution defines “single-payor” as “an entity that has been designated as the sole administrator, collector, and payor of funds for comprehensive health care services.”
SJR 340 defines comprehensive health care services as “the full range of personal health services for diagnosis, treatment, follow-up and rehabilitation of patients.”
According to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), 4.44 million Floridians were enrolled in Florida’s $30 billion Medicaid program’s 17 managed care plans – an increase of almost 450,000 since July 1 – in December.
State economists project the state’s Medicaid enrollment could swell by an additional 700,000 people before 2022, increasing costs by 19% and presenting lawmakers with a possible $1.25 billion shortfall when they convene in March.
Florida is one of 11 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA, but it leads the nation in enrollment in the Obamacare health-insurance exchange, with 1.9 million low-income residents covered by policies purchased through Healthcare.gov.