As the House adjourns early over Medicaid battle, we look at claims on the Truth-O-Meter

As word spread through the Florida Senate on April 28 that the Florida House had Sine Die for the 2015 session, Florida Senators huddle. Left to Right are Sens. Nancy Detert, Maria Sachs, Joe Negron, Bill Montford, and Jack Latvala. (Tampa Bay Times)
As word spread through the Florida Senate on April 28 that the Florida House had Sine Die for the 2015 session, Florida Senators huddle. Left to Right are Sens. Nancy Detert, Maria Sachs, Joe Negron, Bill Montford, and Jack Latvala. (Tampa Bay Times)

A battle over Medicaid expansion led the Florida House to adjourn the session three days early on Tuesday, leaving hundreds of bills dead for now including $690 million in tax cuts, a priority of Gov. Rick Scott.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said the House will return when the Senate was ready to negotiate their budget differences but it was unclear when that would occur. They will have to come back in a special session to complete the state budget by the June 30 deadline.

Crisafulli echoed Senate budget chief Tom Lee who said Monday: "There's no possible hope for getting done at this time."

The Senate agreed to remain in session, sending bills symbolically to the House where they will die.

The House opposed the expansion of the health care program for the poor while the Senate advocated for a version of it, creating a major rift between the two GOP-dominated chambers. Gov. Rick Scott, once a supporter of Medicaid expansion, opposed it this session and threatened to sue the federal government over it. (He officially announced that he filed the suit Tuesday afternoon.)

The federal government is offering billions if Florida expands Medicaid, paying 100 percent of the expansion at first and gradually downshifting to 90 percent in later years. The program currently eats up a sizable portion of the state budget.

While there was a long list of hot issues this session -- including whether to allow guns on college campuses and K-12 schools and a proposal for online voter registration -- in the end the feud over Medicaid was what brought the Legislature screeching to a halt.

Here’s a look back at some of our claims related to Medicaid expansion.

The budget hole and ‘LIP’

Scott said he wants to sue the federal government for ending a program called LIP, which stands for Low Income Pool and is a fund that goes to Florida hospitals for treating low-income patients. Without LIP dollars, Florida faces a $1.3 billion budget gap. Scott has said the federal government is abandoning LIP,  that "the same federal government that offers some money for a program is walking away from another health care program."

Scott has a point; the federal government did say it would stop paying for the program. But Washington warned Florida in April 2014 that it would bring LIP to an end.

But that obscures two important points. Experts told us that the state had time to evaluate the program, make changes and address funding. And, while federal LIP funding is discretionary, Medicaid money is guaranteed by law. That law is unlikely to change anytime soon. We rated Scott’s statement Half True.

Medicaid and the budget

How much does Medicaid take out of the state budget? Close to 30 percent, said Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson at a committee hearing in March. That makes it "the biggest expenditure at the state," he said.  

The 30 percent figure is correct if Wilson counts both the state and federal dollars that go toward Medicaid, and it is the biggest expenditure. However, if we only count state dollars, then education eats up a bigger piece of the budget. We rated his claim Mostly True.

Scott’s changing positions

Scott initially opposed Medicaid expansion, but in 2013 he announced that he decided to support it, earning him a Full Flop on our Flip-O-Meter. But ultimately he didn’t lobby for it, and the Legislature ignored the idea.

More recently, Scott suggested the state should not expand Medicaid, saying at the beginning of April that  it would be "hard to understand how the state could take on even more federal programs." Once again, he made a dramatic about-face and we gave him a Full Flop

Health outcomes for Medicaid patients

When constituents send an email to House Rep. Richard Corcoran asking for Medicaid expansion, he sends back this reply:

"The largest national study, conducted by the University of Virginia, found that Medicaid patients were 97% more likely to die than those with private insurance."

Corcoran, one of the most vocal opponents of the expansion in the House, was citing a 2010 University of Virginia study that looked at Medicaid patients who underwent surgery, not all people in the program. Experts we spoke to -- including one of the study’s authors -- said it’s a misleading statistic to cite. While it’s accurate to say Medicaid patients who undergo operations have higher odds of dying than those with private insurance, it’s because they are sicker and tend to wait until the last minute for care, not because the program is inadequate. Other studies show using Medicaid improves access and quality of life for many patients, or at the very least doesn’t hurt them. We rated the statement Mostly False.

Public opinion

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, opposes the expansion and suggested voters feel the same way, saying,  "Medicaid expansion isn’t necessarily a very popular issue on the street."

He was speaking broadly about how constituents don’t want the expansion. We found that several polls show Floridians favoring the expansion, although results vary depending on how the questions are worded. A recent conservative poll found that Republicans don’t like the expansion by a wide margin. Taken together, those numbers present a more nuanced picture than what Crisafulli suggested. We rated the statement Half True.

Jobs

During the 2014 governor’s race, former Gov. Charlie Crist criticized Scott for the state’s failure to expand Medicaid, saying an expansion would create jobs. "In addition to the $51 billion it would bring to the state over the next 10 years, some studies indicate it would create about 120,000 jobs," Crist said during a debate.

Crist was referring to one study done for the Florida Hospital Association, a supporter of Medicaid expansion. That study predicted about 120,000 new jobs. But other studies predicted far fewer jobs. We rated Crist’s claim Half True.

Spot a claim related to the state Legislature or Medicaid expansion in need of a fact-check? #PolitiFactThis or truthometer@politifact.com