Guest column: League of Women Voters calls for Medicaid expansion in Florida

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By Teresa Jenkins

Punta Gorda

Board member, Florida League of Women Voters

While Florida drags its feet on Medicaid expansion, residents, hospitals and the economy suffer.

Expanding Medicaid, a joint federal-state program for millions of Florida’s hard working residents, should be a piece of cake. Other “red states” have done it: Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and most recently, Ohio. Thus far, 25 states and the District of Columbia have decided to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Shouldn’t Florida, with the nation’s second-highest rate of uninsured residents — 3.8 million — and one of the highest poverty rates in the country, be leading the pack or at least following in the footsteps of these states?

The health care law was intended to give financial assistance to those with the lowest incomes by extending Medicaid eligibility to people who earn just over the federal poverty level and offering tax credits to other low- to middle-income people to subsidize the purchase of private health insurance. However, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states can opt out of Medicaid expansion, a “coverage gap” was created in those states like Florida refusing to expand Medicaid, leaving 1.2 million Floridians without health care coverage.

Leaders across the country Democrats and Republicans are coming to the conclusion that Medicaid expansion makes sense because it can serve as an economic booster shot.

Just like Florida, Ohio refused to expand Medicaid, but recently changed course and passed Medicaid expansion out of compassion and economic practicality.

Arkansas set up an alternative proposal. Arizona will expand Medicaid to nearly 300,000 poor residents next year. Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Corbett recently endorsed a Medicaid expansion plan in defiance of the State House. What’s the hold-up in Florida?

Florida has the ability to gain $51 billion over 10 years. By refusing the expansion, Florida will lose that money money that you paid in federal income taxes, and you will help fund the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, Arkansas, Arizona, Pennsylvania and other states.

Florida will also lose out on the creation of over 122,000 new, good-paying jobs.

With full federal funding for the extension from 2014 to 2016 and at least 90 percent thereafter, Florida has the opportunity to not only help the working poor, and its economy but to also reduce the burden on hospitals for uncompensated care.

The Florida League of Women Voters encourages you to contact your state representatives and Gov. Rick Scott and urge them to follow 25 other states and enact common-sense health policies that provide all of its residents with quality health care that will reduce the burden of uncompensated care, reduce the population of uninsured and inject significant resources into the economy.

Common sense and practicality can prevail over partisanship. It’s simply a matter of choice.

© 2013 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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