Groups welcome Health Insurance Marketplace, bemoan Florida rejection of Medicaid expansion listen10/02/13 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday
Health Insurance Marketplaces where consumers can shop for subsidized health plans opened Tuesday nationwide despite the partial government shutdown. About forty supporters of the law held signs during a press conference in downtown St. Pete’s North Straub Park Tuesday morning demanding that opponents of the president’s trademark law stop fighting it with partisan politics and expand Medicaid in state’s that have so far rejected it, including Florida.
“Florida has a very stingy Medicaid program. If you are a childless adult, virtually you have no eligibility. Now, what can Medicaid expansion do? Well first of all, all childless adults would be eligible if they are within the income limits. Number two, parents, parents have to be dirt poor to hold on to their own Medicaid health insurance. If they earn more than, I think it’s $4,000-$5,000 a year for a family of three, the parents lose their health insurance.”
That’s Dr. Lawrence Floriani with the pro-Obamacare group Doctors for America. The conservative arm of the Republican party is sticking to their guns in their attempts to defund the healthcare law as part of budget negotiations in Washington. But Floriani says the failure to reach a compromise won’t have an effect on the latest roll out, the insurance marketplaces. He adds, it also wouldn’t have affected funding for Medicaid expansion had Florida accepted it.
“Part of the funding is mandatory. It doesn’t depend on Congress passing funding every year. Part of it comes from taxes that will continue to be collected that are going to go into certain parts of the healthcare program. So, the health insurance exchanges and the Affordable Care Act will be funded even with the government shutdown.”
The Affordable Care Act would have allocated $51 billion over ten years to Florida to expand Medicaid to more than 1 million uninsured Floridians. Despite support from Republican governor Rick Scott, the Florida legislature failed to approve a plan that would have used the federal dollars to establish private policies citing concerns that the money could get yanked back as federal deficit debates heated. Floriani said that was the wrong choice for Florida.
“This is like giving them a fully subsidized health benefit program that’s worth over $140 million to the employers and they get the benefit of having a healthy workforce and again, greater productivity, less absenteeism.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals and families earning between 100 and 400% of the federal poverty level are eligible for subsidized health insurance policies in the marketplace. But those making less than the poverty level are not. Without Medicaid expansion, those individuals aren’t left with many options. Floriani said he’s worked with patients who fall into that gap. One patient was able to obtain temporary coverage for a medical emergency, but after having surgery, lost the benefit.
“And she said, ‘I don’t have enough money to put gas in my car to go to work or find a job. I need healthcare and Medicaid expansion would have given her there. And that is a little capsule about what Medicaid, the lack of it is doing to our workforce and our low income workers and what Medicaid expansion could have done for them.”
Florida could still accept the money, but each year that passes they lose a portion of the funding. States were given the right to accept or reject the funding as part of the Supreme Court ruling upholding the healthcare law.