Refusing to expand Medicaid and accept the huge amount of federal money that goes with it continues to haunt Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Legislature.
Without the expansion many working Floridians who earn between the poverty line and 138 percent of poverty will go without health insurance. A Jackson Hewitt tax service report estimates that 214,000 full-time workers fall into that income range.
Some 84,000 of them are provided health insurance through their employer. The remainder will either go uninsured or have to find insurance via the healthcare insurance exchange provided under Affordable Care Act. The companies employing those workers will face fines of $2,000 to $3,000 for each worker seeking eligibility through the exchange.
An Associated Press report says that the penalties could cost Florida businesses $169 million to $253 million.
There appears to be some bipartisan momentum to expand Medicaid, but Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford and the House continue to oppose it. Under the expansion, the federal government will pay all of the cost of expansion for three years and 90 percent after that.
The Leon County Commission recently debated the expansion. One commissioner presented a motion to send a resolution to state officials asking them to readdress Medicaid expansion. The motion died for lack of a second. A 2013 Robert Wood Johnson report says that 19 percent of Leon County’s 284,000 residents have no health insurance.
One has to ask the commissioners, “How do you sleep at night?” There will be deaths and disabilities among the uninsured. Responding to the predictable outcry, the Leon County Commissioners may be reconsidering the resolution. Without the expansion money, about 1 million Floridians will lose their opportunity for coverage. About 4.5 million Floridians lack health insurance.
The Tampa Bay area will be hard hit without the expansion money. In Hillsborough, the state's fourth most populous county, 21 percent are uninsured -- a total of 220,000 people.
In the Tampa Bay area, Sarasota has the highest percentage of uninsured people at 27 percent. Rounding out Bay Area counties are Manatee at 26 percent, Polk at 23 percent, Hernando at 21 percent, Pinellas at 19 percent, and Pasco 22 percent.
Florida’s uninsured between birth and age 64 remains at 25 percent, well above the national average of 18 percent. Florida residents rank a dismal 34th in the nation for their health status, according to the Kaiser Foundation.
Aside from the billions of dollars lost to healthcare providers because the state has rejected the Medicaid money, employers may now be subject to severe financial penalties. If the Scott administration is the friend of the private sector, who needs enemies?
Companies that are considering moving to Florida or expanding here may be having second thoughts.
The Scott administration and the Legislature must expand Medicaid, accept the federal money that goes with it and stop playing politics with the lives, health and welfare of Florida’s citizens.