Question mark on use of Medicaid for coronavirus testing

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

States have been given authority to extend Medicaid to help pay the costs of COVID-19 testing for uninsured residents under a federal coronavirus relief measure passed last week.

But Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday avoided directly answering whether Florida would take advantage of the new policy, which would allow the full costs of testing uninsured adults to be borne by the state Medicaid program.

DeSantis said Florida would make sure people can get free tests and access to any necessary follow-up care.

“The thing I would say to people about the coronavirus is, if you are somebody who is symptomatic and you go in, you are going to get a free test,” DeSantis said. “We are going to treat everybody.”

Florida is one of 14 states that did not expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. As such, Florida has roughly 800,000 residents who are in what many call a coverage gap because they are too poor to qualify for subsidies on the federal health-insurance exchange but cannot qualify for Medicaid.

“I know the health-care coverage is an important issue, but for this type of time, it doesn’t really matter,” DeSantis said. “So, we will make sure people have access to that test, and if they need access to care, we will figure out a way to pay for it.”

Florida lawmakers during this year’s legislative session authorized the state Department of Health to spend $52 million, of which $27 million is federal funding, to respond to the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the recently passed federal law also increases by 6.2 percent the federal contribution used to fund Medicaid. DeSantis, who supported Medicaid block grants while a member of the U.S. House, said the increase is good news for the state.

“That is going to be a huge plus for the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “We typically have not fared as well in that. “

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.