The Florida House of Representatives rejected an expansion of the state’s current Medicaid system that leaves hundreds of thousands of people caught in the state’s coverage gap. This gap applies to people living in the state who make too much money to apply for coverage but too little to cover the costs of their medical care. It has the possibility of having a serious effect on elderly people who live down in Florida full-time or have made it their primary residence for Medicaid eligibility purposes.
Florida Medicaid Program
Florida currently has 1.3 million people enrolled in the federal exchange for healthcare insurance, more than any other state in the country. Most of these people qualify for subsidies, but if these subsidies were invalidated then they would lose their access to coverage. This is of particular concern now as the U.S. Supreme Court is currently ruling on the case of King v. Burwell, which will determine whether federal tax subsidies that allow for low and middle income people to purchase insurance through the marketplace will be unconstitutional.
Proposed Medicaid Expansion
The proposed Medicaid expansion would raise the income limits for eligibility, and one hundred percent of the cost of coverage would be covered by the federal government through 2016, with ninety percent coverage by the government after that. Without the expansion, around 700,000 people remain in Medicaid’s coverage gap. Furthermore, it has driven many in Florida out of the marketplace altogether with 24% of its population completely uninsured, the second highest uninsured rate in the nation.
One advocate of the proposed Medicaid expansion in Florida said, “If the Medicaid dollars [were] accepted, in combination with the exchange, you’d pretty much have a path to coverage for everybody. People [would be] able to get primary preventative care and ultimately [wouldn’t] have to bankrupt themselves to access coverage, as happens to many in Florida.”
Effects on Florida Citizens
The downsides of rejecting the Medicaid expansion affect many in Florida, young and old. In regards to children, one researcher found that 28% of the population under consideration for Medicaid in Florida are parents, so their rejection affects their children, too. “When parents are covered, it improves the financial security of the family. It also improves the health of the parents, which reduces conditions like maternal depression.”
Furthermore, it reduces the percentage of children that are uninsured across the state. “Florida has a very poor enrollment rate in the Medicaid and CHIP programs, and that’s why Florida has the highest uninsured rate of kids in the South.” Studies have found that when the entire family is covered by programs like Medicaid, enrollment has improved.
The lack of Medicaid expansion also affects the elderly in Florida. Many seniors across the state are living on a fixed income or may be close to outliving their funds. However, these seniors are still caught in the middle of the coverage gap and are unable to qualify for Medicaid. This means that they must spend down their assets and leave nothing for their loved ones or go without Medicaid coverage for their healthcare needs.