Why we need Medicaid expansion ASAP

by Gaby Gross, Alachua County Labor Coalition

The covid pandemic crisis has made visible the utter inadequacy of healthcare in Florida. Before the pandemic, almost 900,000 low income adults had no health insurance. Now having lost their jobs in the covid crisis, thousands of others have lost their employment-connected health insurance. At the same time the cost of treatment for covid-19 virus infections can add enormously to healthcare needs.    

Currently, Medicaid coverage in Florida, apart from specialized programs, is only available to people who have dependents and earn less than 30 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (about $7,000 a year for a family of three). With expansion, whether or not they have dependents, people with incomes of up to 138 percent of the FPL (about $29,000 for a family of three) will be eligible. 

Whether it’s due to malice, ignorance or prejudice, our legislature has refused to accept the federal money which would have covered 90 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid.  

The legislative refusal is irrational because Floridians’ taxes go into the pool of federal funds used for Medicaid expansion, but few Floridians benefit. 

The refusal exacerbates the health problems of African-Americans and other minorities who already suffer from poverty-induced health problems. For example, for every two infants born to white mothers who die in their first year, five black babies die. High blood pressure which can lead to early death if untreated is more prevalent among African-Americans than white Floridians. 

Results from states which have expanded Medicaid show that people covered by Medicaid get regular checkups so that health problems such as hypertension are diagnosed and treated early avoiding more serious illness and early deaths.    

In addition to the funds which would enable our residents to enjoy better health, the state would enjoy general economic benefits. More medical workers will be employed. With improved health many more residents will be able to work, particularly those with mental health and substance abuse problems which can be treated by Medicaid. 

The ideal healthcare system would be a form of Medicare for All. Until that happens we must grasp the benefits of Medicaid expansion. The Alachua County Labor Coalition is working for expansion through Medicaid Matters for Florida, a statewide coalition, and also cooperating with the League of Women Voters and other organizations. To draw legislators’ attention, we are seeking to have local municipalities pass resolutions in support. We will also be working to ensure voters know which candidates will become supportive legislators. 

Volunteers will be needed.  Details will be available shortly.  Please contact the ACLC office 352-375-2832, info@laborcoalition.org for more information. 

Please join us on Thursday, July 30 from 5-6:30 pm for a virtual celebration of the birthday of Medicare and Medicaid.  Speakers will discuss Medicaid expansion in Florida and preserving and expanding Medicare. Zoom information will be announced.

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