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Affordable Care Act

FL Should Resolve to Expand Medicaid

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In spite of massive conservative efforts to derail the Affordable Care Act, the train continues to lumber down the track. The Washington Post writes that at least 7.1 million people so far have enrolled in 2015 health plans. Somewhat short of projected enrollment with many states such as Florida instituting effective sign-up obstacles, the plan known as Obamacare marches on.

Fourteen states running their own alternative sign-ups can claim 633,000 enrollees. Florida projections suggest more than 1 million will be signed up through government exchanges by the deadline, February 15.

Florida’s Legislature would not set up a state insurance exchange, nor would the state support ACA and led the early failed effort to challenge the Affordable Care Act in the courts. It also joins several states hoping to kill government exchanges operating in those states not establishing their own.

A total of 28 states (including Washington D.C.) have adopted Medicaid expansion, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Many states initially hostile to the expansion are realizing the benefits to their constituents and are looking at alternative paths to receive Medicaid expansion money. These efforts are critical to enrolling the unemployed or those workers who cannot receive adequate subsidies to afford family health insurance.

Most recently, Alaska’s Gov. Bill Walker, who took office in December, announced that implementation of the Medicaid expansion is a top priority for his administration. Many states that did not adopt ACA are offering alternative proposals to receive Medicaid expansion money and include Tennessee, Indiana, Wyoming and Utah. Montana’s Gov. Steve Pollock has included Medicaid expansion as part of his 2016 Executive Budget proposal. There is action in the Florida legislature to consider receiving Medicaid dollars, but nothing has materialized to date.

There are approximately 4 million uninsured people in Florida. That represents 25 percent of the population under 65. Although Florida has reduced the number of uninsured children this past year, it still remains fifth in the nation with 445,000 not covered. It should be noted that all states reduced the number of uninsured children last year due to the expanded children’s health initiative and the Affordable Care Act.

So, it is clear that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay, unless a pending U.S. Supreme Court challenge – based on a mistake in drafting the measure – throws it into chaos.  The public supports the ACA, and those states hostile to the effort are seeing the negative impact at the polls. It is doubtful that any state unfriendly to ACA is ignoring Medicaid expansion money benefits.

It is time for the administration of Gov. Rick Scott to bury the hatchet in its efforts to derail ACA and walk away from challenges to the government exchanges. Millions of Floridians would benefit from the Medicaid expansion. It is a disgrace for elected officials who are charged with improving the life of Florida citizens to support efforts to block critical health coverage to the needy.

Our communities would be healthier, families now unable to access quality health services could do so and community public health would improve. The benefits are too great to undermine health coverage efforts.

The lack of Medicaid expansion money has denied millions of Florida’s uninsured the benefit of equitable health care. It’s time to move past the politics and do what is right! Accept the billions of  Medicaid expansion dollars offered by the federal government. Florida will be all the better for it.

Marc Yacht is a semi-retired physician living in Hudson, Fla.

Column courtesy of Context Florida. Marc Yacht