The recent bungled roll out of the healthcare.gov website has those in opposition to the Affordable Care Act wagging their fingers in righteous indignation. This will give further support to those in opposition to expanding Medicaid in Florida. This coming year the Florida Legislature will again consider the possibility of expanding the Medicaid program to an estimated additional 1.4 million residents. The overwhelming majority of the expansion would be paid for by the federal government and would extend health insurance to those making 138% of the federal poverty level. By extending Medicaid in Florida many healthcare economists estimate it will drive healthcare costs down, create jobs and help to sustain our healthcare infrastructure. In human terms the expansion would provide 1.3 million Florida families with the security of healthcare access.
Unfortunately our leadership in Tallahassee continues to oppose the expansion. Those in opposition use primarily two arguments against expanding Medicaid in Florida. The first, and most divisive, is that it would extend Medicaid to “able bodied adults”. The implication here is that the state would provide health insurance to underserving masses that chose not to work or accept responsibility for their own healthcare. This argument misrepresents the truth and works to demonize those who would benefit from Medicaid expansion. Those newly covered under the Medicaid expansion will predominantly be the working poor. These are the individuals who bag our groceries, serve our food and bus our tables at restaurants and perform other jobs that pay close to the minimum wage. These individuals, and their families, go largely without health care simply because they do not earn enough to pay for healthcare but make to much to presently qualify for Medicaid assistance. These are hard working individuals who struggle to survive economically from day to day because we choose to not pay a truly livable wage. These are the families that pay the price of our inexpensive foods and services.
The second argument made is that we cannot trust the federal government to produce the funds to pay for the expansion. Those in opposition imply that the federal government will suddenly stop the funding and the state of Florida will be on the hook for tens of billions of dollars. It strikes me strange that these same legislators have no reluctance to rely on the 500 billion dollars our state receives annually from the Federal government, but these funds tied directly to the Affordable Care Act cannot be trusted. We continue to expand education, roads and security based on the promise of federal dollars, but providing healthcare to those most in need is somehow different and irresponsible?
The arguments and actions in opposition to the Medicaid expansion are neither economically prudent nor socially responsible. These are political actions intended to obstruct the Affordable Care Act and gain favor from a political base. These same actions do direct and irreparable harm to Florida’s families who struggle to survive. As a Nurse Practitioner I have seen the faces of these individuals who work 2 or more jobs to survive and then are forced to come to the emergency room because they have no where else to turn for healthcare. I have witnessed lives devastated, and lost, because of the lack of healthcare. Our political leaders have the opportunity to provide our brothers and sisters the small security of healthcare. As a fair and just society it is unethical to perpetuate a system that takes advantage of the working poor and denies them the security of healthcare access. It is my hope that our political leaders gain the wisdom to move beyond their parochial and partisan interests to take action in the best interest of our state and it’s citizens.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy
Analysis of impact on small employers
Who benefits from Medicaid expansion
Medicaid expansion fact sheet