As the next crop of Florida legislators met for the first time in Tallahassee on Tuesday, health care advocates and the new leader of the Senate Democratic caucus pushed for Medicaid expansion.
In her opening remarks, state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, urged lawmakers to accept federal money and expand Medicaid, the Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau reports. And in Orlando, health care advocates also rallied for state lawmakers to expand Medicaid to cover about 1 million low-income Floridians.
Those Floridians, with incomes too low for them to get subsidized health insurance plans on the federal health insurance marketplace, have few options, said Athena Smith Ford, director for advocacy group Florida CHAIN. She said those without insurance include 60,000 veterans as well as working parents, students and the unemployed.
“A lot of people who work jobs that are the backbone of Florida’s tourism economy, so servers and people who watch our kids and the folks that clean the hotel rooms are likely falling in the coverage gap right now,” Ford said.
Florida and 20 other states have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a piece of the law the U.S. Supreme Court deemed optional. In 2013, lawmakers rejected an expansion of the program to cover more people, and the Republican-controlled Florida House also voted down an alternative to Medicaid expansion proposed by Republican Sen. Joe Negron of Palm City.
Medicaid expansion was not considered during the 2014 session.
Odalis R. Camacho’s adult son Juan is one of the 110,000 Orlando residents in the so-called coverage gap.
“We need to finish this gap and be able to accept this money to Central Florida because there’s a lot of people like my son, like me, like so many others dying, losing their life, and not having a quality life because they cannot qualify for an insurance,” Camacho said.
Advocates say expanding Medicaid would create 67,000 jobs and draw down $15 million every day from the federal government.