The Democratic embrace of vouchers continues…

On Monday, a Florida Senate panel joined their colleagues in the House in rejecting Governor Scott’s Medicaid expansion.  Just as a reminder, Scott’s plan would have placed those beneficiaries made eligible for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion into Medicaid managed care plans.

Like the House, the Florida Senate is now working on a counter proposal that would introduce vouchers into Medicaid.  It’s not clear exactly how this would work, but it has been suggested that it could work in a similar manner to Florida Healthy Kids Corp., where parents pay co-pays and premiums based on their income (update: Sen. Negron puts forward a concrete plan. http://bit.ly/ZQqBwj).  So unlike the Arkansas model, the early stages of the Florida proposal would not have the added benefit of requiring the construction of an exchange.  The Florida model could operate in absence of an exchange.  This fact, would likely make the Obama administration less likely to go along, but the Florida Senate’s proposed plan is still important for the window into Republican and Democratic thinking it provides.

According to an AP report, Democrats in the Florida Senate met the Republican proposal with enthusiasm, saying that Republicans could call it whatever they wanted as long as they were willing to accept the estimated $51 billion from the federal government to expand health insurance to more Floridians.

Democrats are showing themselves open to accepting a role for vouchers if vouchers can serve as the carrot necessary to entice Republicans into expanding health spending.  The Florida Democrats are not the first to demonstrate such flexibility.  A trade of vouchers for Medicaid expansion was first tentatively agreed to three weeks ago by the Obama Administration and Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas.

Democratic willingness to move on vouchers shows that Republican intransigence is, indeed, having an impact on moving the policy debate to the right.  The policy pragmatism of the Democrats is understandable, and in many ways admirable in this time of partisan gridlock, but this policy pragmatism could prove to be a political and policy nightmare down the road for Democrats.

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