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5.8M in FL at times uninsured

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By Christine Jordan Sexton
3/19/2009 © Florida Health News

Florida had 5.8 million residents who went without health coverage at some point in 2007-08, nearly 3/4 of them for more than six months, according to a report released today by Families USA.

More than 38 percent of Florida’s population was uninsured at some point during the two year period. Only Texas and New Mexico had higher rates of uninsured residents, according to the non-profit group, which advocates universal health care.

 
“The huge number of people without health coverage in Florida is worse than an epidemic,” said Ron Pollack, executive director. “At this point, almost everyone in Florida has had a family member, neighbor or friend who is uninsured.”
 
The analysis was based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s population and income survey and data from the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. A private research firm, The Lewin Group, compiled the report.
 
Castor
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who joined Pollack in a teleconference about the Florida results, said they underscore why the national health care debate is so important.  

 
“We’re going to work very hard on health care,” said Castor, who serves on the health subcommittee. “Florida has a lot at stake in this health care reform debate. We are going to work for bipartisan solutions. Everything is on the table.”
 
Gov. Charlie Crist has pushed an ambitious agenda to revamp health care in Florida, saying it is an issue that families shouldn’t have to worry about. He required insurance companies for the first time to sell a plan to anyone who wanted it, regardless of their health risks, then negotiated with insurance companies to provide the coverage.  He also lobbied to require insurance companies for the first time to offer coverage for autism screening and treatment. That mandate goes into effect next month.
 
Florida CHAIN Executive Director Laura Goodhue gave the governor credit for the Cover Florida initiative and making health care accessible to those who were once locked out, but she said the initiative doesn’t go far enough to chip away at the problem. The coverage is not comprehensive, she said, and copayments are expensive.
 

“It’s definitely not the answer that we need,” said Goodhue, who joined Pollack in announcing the study. “Cover Florida is really a drop in the bucket.”

Goodhue said that the coverage may be attractive for people who are young and healthy but that it’s “really not the comprehensive coverage we need.”

 
The Families USA analysis shows that most uninsured Floridians were members of families that included at least one full- or part-time worker. Among families of four with an income of at least $42,000, more than 27 percent of families were uninsured.
 

Uninsured Floridians aren’t “looking for a handout,” Pollack said, but “people who are doing the right thing.’’


The report also shows disparities in the health care system: about 54 percent of Hispanic Floridians were uninsured compared with 30 percent of whites.
 
Congress and the President have already tackled a portion of the health care dilemma by extending the state children’s health insurance program, which can cover up to 4 million children. Pollack called that an important “down payment” on comprehensive health care reform.