The Sunshine State has one of the highest rates of uninsured in the nation, and things could get worse, experts warn, if the Legislature does not take action.
Experts painted a grim picture of health care in Florida on Thursday during a League of Women Voters of Florida media conference call.
They warned of pending cuts if the Florida Legislature does not take action during the coming session and accept billions of dollars in federal money. On average, $5 billion per year is available for the state of Florida to help expand coverage to low income families for healthcare, should legislators approve a plan this coming session.
“Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation and is lagging behind other states in bringing in federal Medicaid dollars that have been set aside for states to use or lose,’ Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families said.
“The most straightforward solution is to reduce the uncompensated care costs borne by safety net hospitals by accepting federal funding to help more Floridians find affordable coverage.” Alker said. “This would not only have a financial benefit to the state, it would help people working in tourism, retail, construction and other industries that often don’t provide health coverage to employees.”
Also on the call were Charlotte Joseph Cassel of Florida Legal Services and Deirdre Macnab, the League’s state president.
Cassel said that historically, the Florida safety-net health care providers have relied on supplemental funding from the federal government to offset the cost of providing care to the uninsured, but that funding is scheduled to end beginning July 2015.
“It is critical that our elected officials find a way to expand coverage and ensure the viability of our safety-net system and access to health care for all Floridians,” Cassel said.
League president Deirdre Macnab said the League was hopeful that “sizable and growing pressure from the business community will produce a successful smart choice by the Florida Legislature.”
While the League has not yet signed on to two business proposals put forth by A Healthy Florida Works and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, they are seen as key steps in opening up creative discussion towards final adoption of a unique Florida plan.
“Florida could catch up very quickly by taking advantage of the flexibility the federal government is offering right now by fashioning a Florida solution to help both citizens and businesses in the state of Florida combat their growing healthcare costs. ”
She added an optimistic note that pending proposals by the business community provide a window for the legislature to explore the possibility of taking advantage of this economic opportunity for the state of Florida.
Several other states across the country have begun to fashion custom agreements and details of these were shared on today’s call. Alker said that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has shown extraordinary flexibility in allowing states to design their own plans to meet the needs of their residents. The federal government has offered to pay nearly all the costs of covering people earning up to $16,105 annually. The funding has already been earmarked for this purpose and Florida can either use it or lose it.
The full report from Florida Legal Services is available here.