TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Senate Democrats reiterated their call Tuesday for Tallahassee's majority Republicans to embrace Medicaid expansion as a means of covering uninsured Floridians while tackling a projected revenue shortfall in the process.

What You Need To Know

  •  Florida Senate Democrats are calling for the state to expand Medicaid

  •  They argue that $50 billion in federal expansion funds would make a big difference for uninsured Floridians

  • Republicans, though, have not indicated they have any appetite for a Medicaid expansion

Gathering outside the Senate Office Building, the upper chamber's minority caucus pressed Republicans, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, to accept more than $50 billion in federal expansion funds to cover roughly 900,000 uninsured Floridians who don't currently qualify for Medicaid. The ranks of the newly uninsured have grown significantly as the pandemic has led to the layoffs of workers who had been covered through employer-provided health insurance.

Democrats have been advocating for Medicaid expansion since 2012, when the Obama administration made funding available to states through the Affordable Care Act.

"We didn't know that there was going to be a COVID pandemic that would come after that, but our predictions are still right that people would die," said Sen. Perry Thurston (D-Ft. Lauderdale). "It's just, now they're dying on steroids. They're dying in an exasperated manner. They're dying because we refuse to do what we can do with the stroke of a pen."

Medicaid spending accounts for approximately one-third of the state budget. Expansion advocates say accepting the additional federal funding could lower the state's total share of Medicaid spending, freeing up money for other priorities. State economists are projecting a pandemic-triggered revenue shortfall of more than $1 billion in the next fiscal year.

There is no indication, however, that Republicans are any more inclined to expand Medicaid than they have been over the last nine years. House Republicans, in particular, have been steadfastly opposed to expansion, warning that growing federal deficits and a ballooning national debt could ultimately put Florida on the hook for all or most of the cost.

Expansion would amount to growing, "an entitlement program which is surely going to put this state in fiscal ruins 20, 30 years from now," Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) said during a House floor debate on the issue in 2015.