Unemployment caused by COVID driving up Florida's Medicaid rolls — and costing billions

When newly-elected state Rep. Allison Tant began to prepare for Florida's 2021 legislative session, she spotted a big hole in the state's health care budget.

Florida's unemployment rate is more than double what it was a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has led to nearly 700,000 people signing up for Medicaid, the federal-state health care insurance plan that pays for the treatment of low-income patients. 

That will increase the state's cost to participate by about $1.2 billion for the 2021-22 budget year, according to state economists. 

"We're going to have to figure out how to pay for that," said Tant, D-Tallahassee, who was named to the House Health and Human Services Committee. "The number of people now qualified for Medicaid is going to put a very stringent burden on us."

Most of the state's general revenue comes from sales tax collections, which are down due to coronavirus restrictions and people's reluctance to travel. 

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