NAPLES — Health reform would bring about 1.85 million Florida residents health-care coverage by 2013 and that number would grow to three million by 2019, according to a report released Thursday.
On the flip side, without reform, 15,450 Florida residents each month now are losing coverage and that would continue without reform, according to Families USA, a liberal-leaning health-care consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C. The group has examined the impact of H.B. 3200 in Florida as part of a series of state-by-state examinations of the impact with health reform.
“You will have future stability on coverage but also on costs of coverage,” said Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy with Families USA.
In Florida, nearly 4 million residents are uninsured now and that is unacceptable and cannot continue, said Laura Goodhue executive director of Florida CHAIN, a state advocacy group. Reform would help address medical debt and the “hidden tax” that the insured pay in higher premiums to help pay for the uninsured, she said.
“The numbers are staggering, we have about 4 million uninsured and that is growing by leaps and bounds,” Goodhue said. “Fifteen thousand lose coverage every month. That is almost incomprehensible.”
Stoll, with Families USA, said health-care reform would prevent insurance companies from charging higher premiums to women and all others based on health status. In Florida, women now pay 44 percent more in premiums than men.
“The sky’s the limit now on health status,” she said.
The bill now would set up health exchanges that would offer a range of plans for people to select from and will enable the public to know what they are getting.
“The pending health insurance reform bill in the U.S. House of Representatives is designed to provide peace of mind to Florida’s families by making health care and coverage more affordable and reliable,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. “It will eliminate insurance company abuses, protect people from loss of coverage when they switch or lose jobs, and prevent people from having to run up huge debts or file bankruptcy.”
“You will be able to shop and compare plans successfully,” Stoll said. “All plans will cover core benefits and preventive care. They will be available to individuals and small businesses. This isn’t something that exists now.”
In addition, the uninsured would be eligible for sliding scale subsidies to help pay for coverage and small businesses would get tax credits to help provide insurance coverage for workers, she said.
Health reform also will protect the insured from “huge holes” in coverage which exist now with spending caps imposed by insurance companies, she said. Insurers would be prohibited from halting coverage once claims hit a cap.
In Florida now, residents have seen their premium increases outpace earnings by 3.7 percent since 2000 and that’s got to change, she said.