Florida Fails to Act on Medicaid Option

Thanks to the strong effort by so many different organizations in Florida, the state almost overcame ideological opposition to accepting federal funding for covering more uninsured Floridians through Medicaid.

It is disappointing that ideology trumped pragmatism in the end as the Florida House of Representatives insisted on holding the health and well-being of Florida families hostage to politics.

This is especially unfortunate because Florida has more uninsured adults than any other state but Texas.  Yet the impact of this decision reverberates beyond the one million uninsured Floridians who stood to gain Medicaid coverage.  The House’s intransigence is fiscally irresponsible as well.  Our November 2012 study found, and Governor Scott now concurs, that accepting federal funding to cover more uninsured people would have saved the state money.

Florida’s hospitals will continue to face mounting unpaid medical bills from uninsured patients who would have been covered if the House had accepted the compromise plan approved by the Senate.  Many of the businesses that anchor Florida’s economy will be put at a competitive disadvantage by this failure to act as they will face higher payments for uninsured workers.

Most importantly, however, uninsured Floridians will have to continue to go without access to preventive and primary care that would accompany Medicaid coverage.  Instead, they will continue to show up in the ER when they get sicker due to untreated conditions and have nowhere else to turn to for health care. This is not a wise use of taxpayer dollars.

It’s important to remember that in Florida, and in any state for that matter, the door is not closed as the federal funding is still available to tap should policymakers have a change of heart.  In Florida, there was a strong effort to move forward on Medicaid and it will continue.

Joan Alker
Joan Alker is the Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families