Report: Nearly 5.8 million Floridians were uninsured in the past 2 years

03/19/09 Mitch E. Perry
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A new report from a health care advocacy group says that almost two of every five Floridians under the age of 65 were uninsured for some period of time in the past couple of years.

Ron Pollock is executive director with Families USA, the organization that released the study. He said approximately 5.8 million Floridians were uninsured for at least six months within the past two years, that's 38 percent of the state’s population.

Tampa area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor says the report highlights the enormous gaps in health care coverage for Floridians, and she calls it a fundamental realization of the unaffordability of health care in the state.

Holly Benson, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, said this week that the state has $817 million in stimulus money available to shore up Florida's Medicaid program for the poor and disabled. But she says it may be imcumbent on the Legislature to get authorization to spend it.

Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida CHAIN, a statewide network dedicated to improving health care in the Sunshine State, says an immediate way to try to bring down the uninsured number is to get that Medicaid money approved. And Goodhue said it’s important to remember the people behind the statistics of those who are uninsured.

It’s been 15 years since serious health care reform has been attempted in Washington. Families USA President Ron Pollock says a lot of things have changed since then, including some of the biggest critics of plans proposed by former President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary.

In President Barack Obama’s first budget proposal, he asks for $644 billion over 10 years to spend on health care reform. And that’s just a down payment, according to administration officials.

When asked about potential Congressional resistance to spending so much when the federal government is already stretching the federal deficit with other spending such as the unpopular bailouts of banks and corporations like AIG, Castor said health care was too important not to try to fix right now.

Alan Grayson is a freshman Democratic representative from the Orlando area. He compared what Obama has put in his budget for health care with what’s been spent on the Iraq War.

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