Without Medicaid Expansion, the Finances and Health of Floridians are at Risk
By Lindsay Frankel
More than 80,000 Floridians have signed the petition for a 2020 ballot amendment that would expand Medicaid in the state, and their support has caused the Supreme Court to conduct a fiscal review of the measure. But while activist groups are pushing hard for medicaid expansion, they must collect another 685,000 signatures by February 2020 in order for the issue to go to a vote.
While 37 other states have adopted expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Florida lawmakers have repeatedly dismissed the issue, even with the federal government offering to provide 90 percent of the funding. Now, a June report found that the Medicaid expansion initiative could save the state $200 million in the 2022-2023 fiscal year. That’s because the extra $4 billion in federal money would “more than offset the cost of expansion,” according to health policy analyst Anne Swerlick, an attorney with the Florida Policy Institute.
Low-wage workers and those who are unemployed often can’t afford health insurance in Florida, and many delay medical care as a result, leading to more costly health issues. State economists say the expansion would help 260,000 uninsured Floridians gain access to health insurance by making Medicaid available to adults with household incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Other states that have adopted expanded Medicaid have experienced better health outcomes, including reduced infant mortality rates. States have also seen improved financial stability for residents along with economic benefits for providers and state governments. Medical bankruptcy has fallen in states that offer expanded Medicaid, and so has residents’ reliance on secondary economy products such as payday loans and pawn shops.
While most people use payday loans for recurring expenses, according to research from Pew Charitable Trusts, 16 percent of adults borrow a payday loan to cover an emergency expense such as healthcare costs. And because Florida payday loans have average annual interest rates of more than 300 percent, they can be extremely difficult for borrowers to pay back, especially if lost wages occur due to healthcare emergencies.
Without Medicaid expansion, Floridians run the risk of delaying medical care due to lack of access to affordable services or borrowing payday loans to cover the costs, both of which can negatively impact residents’ financial, physical, and mental health.
Many Floridians have even lost their jobs due to health issues, which puts them in a coverage gap, unable to access to health insurance.
Nebraska, Idaho, and Utah have all recently passed ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid, and Florida could join them in 2020. However, activist groups have a long way to go before the measure reaches the ballot; they’ve only collected about 10 percent of the signatures they need. Registered Florida voters who want to support the measure should sign and mail the petition.