TALLAHASSEE, FL — The pressure is on for states such as Florida to expand Medicaid, currently now missing out on billions of health-care subsidies in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. In addition to $1,400 stimulus checks some Americans soon will receive, the pandemic-aid law offers billions in incentives to Florida and 11 other states to entice them to expand Medicaid.
Anne Swerlick, senior policy analyst and attorney for the Florida Policy Institute, said the state’s refusal to expand is not just harming adults in need of coverage but also Florida’s children. She pointed to data tracking from 2016 to 2019 with significant drops in kids’ health coverage.
“We saw a jump of 50,000 more uninsured kids, which puts us at about 343,000 more children that are uninsured,” Swerlick observed. “This is actually affecting Hispanic children one and a half times more.”
Florida could get an estimated $3.5 billion in federal funding. Still, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other holdout states such as Texas continue to resist, and critics argue their reasoning is more ideological than practical given the benefits.
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Adam Searing, health-policy research professor at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, was lead author of a report which found children in states that expanded Medicaid are twice as likely to have health coverage.
“Florida could really benefit from expanding Medicaid,” Searing contended. “And they are one of our top four states. There is Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida where most kids who are uninsured live and most people who would benefit from expanding Medicaid, who are uninsured, live.”
The pandemic relief law now offers more generous subsidies and premium tax credits in the Affordable Care Act to help low- and middle-income Americans purchase individual health insurance plans in the law’s health-insurance exchanges. Swerlick noted the multi-year effort to pass Medicaid expansion in Florida continues.
She and other advocates will keep trying while supporting bills with provisions that could help move the needle, such as Senate Bill 238 and its companion measure, House Bill 645, which would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to a year.