South Florida Hospital News
Sunday September 22, 2019
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October 2015 - Volume 12 - Issue 4

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It’s Time for Florida’s Health Care Leaders to Demand Medicaid Expansion

John Kasich, Republican governor of Ohio and 2016 presidential candidate, expanded Medicaid for his state and recently spoke proudly of the results. According to Kasich, this choice contributed to a “healthier society” and brought money back to Ohio that originated in his state. Across the country, millions of people are now covered by the expanded Medicaid programs being administered in 30 states. In Florida, however, the majority of our House Republicans still oppose Medicaid expansion, denying working families the support and resources they desperately need.
 
As someone who has long been an advocate for patients, seniors and health care providers, I believe there is no question that Medicaid expansion in Florida is critical for our state. At least 13 million more Americans are now receiving health care insurance as result of the Affordable Care Act – but it’s not enough. A family of four earning more than $15,000 earns too much for Medicaid coverage today. Medicaid expansion could cover the same family earning up to $32,000.
 
Today, South Florida has the highest rate of employed workers without health insurance in the entire country and about 600,000 working people can’t afford to purchase health insurance and don’t qualify for subsidies. Without sufficient health care, the working poor are forced to access care through hospital emergency departments as opposed to primary care physicians, which costs Florida about $3 billion per year in unpaid healthcare costs. In order to make up for these losses, insurers are charged more for the insured patients who access the healthcare system, raising the cost of healthcare for businesses, families and individuals.
 
With Medicaid expansion, these unpaid healthcare costs could be decreased. By allowing everyone access to primary care physicians, conditions can be treated proactively, avoiding higher costs later on. Continuity of care means healthier patients and lower costs in the long term.
 
Consider that, in 2014, Florida accepted the expanded Medicaid program for school-aged children. More than 62,000 kids who had been enrolled in Florida’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) were moved to Medicaid, saving working families significant dollars. It’s time to offer the same level of financial relief to the parents of these children.
 
There are very good reasons for Florida to move toward Medicaid expansion. Like Ohio, the resources coming to Florida would be from those originating in Florida. Administration of Medicaid expansion in Florida simply helps us get back a larger share of our own federal tax contributions to meet the needs of our population.
 
Hospital leaders, healthcare workers, patient advocates and caretakers have a responsibility to reach out to those legislators who have opposed Medicaid expansion. Our elected officials need to hear from those on the front lines who care for the families in need every day. As a former legislator, I know that collective voices matter and that direct outreach from people who are deeply engaged in an issue makes a difference.
 
Governor Kasich is unafraid to tell the truth: Medicaid expansion is good for workers in need, good for their families and good for business. It’s now the responsibility of all of us working in health care in Florida to carry this message to our elected officials prior to January’s legislative session. The time to help our working families has come.
Elaine Bloom, President and CEO, Plaza Health Network, and former member of the Florida State House of Representatives, can be reached at (305) 917-0400 or EBloom@plazahealthnetwork.org.
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