JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Gov. Rick Scott made a major change to healthcare in Florida Wednesday, announcing a plan to expand Medicaid, which will provide healthcare for nearly 1 million more Floridians.
Action News has learned that includes an additional 180,000 people in Jacksonville.
It's a plan that Scott has been a critic of since running for office, but on Wednesday he said the re-election of President Obama shows support for his healthcare overhaul. That, combined with a recent Supreme Court ruling indicate the plan should be given a chance.
"It's almost a no-lose situation for the state of Florida," says Dr. Sunil Joshi, Treasurer of the Duval County Medical Society.
Joshi thinks the change makes sense because the federal government has committed to paying 100 percent of Medicaid costs for the next three years, and 90 percent in the years that follow. Florida will save, and low-income patients will get care. While new jobs in the health-care industry will likely be created locally, Joshi says there could be a downfall.
"If you flood the market with an additional 900,000 people, others who were used to having appropriate access to care may no longer have it. We could have a situation where the demand of patients exceeds the supply of doctors, and we certainly hope that does not happen, because the quality of care is still important to the plan's success."
It's a challenge that UF and Shands is planning for. Executives say they're relieved by the governor's announcement because they weren't sure until today which way he would decide. Providing care to the uninsured costs the hospital $18 million a year, which is money that the federal government soon won't pay back under the new statute.
"Right now we're getting some reimbursement and if we didn't have the Medicaid expansion we wouldn't get any," says Dr. David Guzick, President of the UF and Shands Health Care System.
Guzick says the Jacksonville campus may not have been able to manage if the Medicaid expansion had not been recommended for approval.
If approved by the Florida Legislaure, the Medicaid changes will go into effect in January 2014. Over the next three years, Florida leaders will monitor the effectiveness of the change and determine if it will continue. Part of that decision, Scott said, will be based on the federal government's ability to continue funding the program.
Dr. Joshi says he hopes so, but only time will tel
"It would be terrible to offer these people services and then to take it away would be very, very difficult, so I'm hoping the federal government sticks to the plan."l.