Today, July 30, is Medicaid’s 54th birthday and that should be a cause for celebration for all Americans. In Florida alone, Medicaid now provides health insurance for over 40% of all children born in the state and four out of seven disabled Floridians who need nursing home care.
Medicaid has lived through needed reforms and challenges, but it has primarily been a lifeline to our most vulnerable citizens. 54 years after being signed into law, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that Medicaid saves lives and improves health outcomes for the state’s neediest – and at a lower cost than any other insurance program.
Still, Florida’s definition of “vulnerable” doesn’t fit the modern realities in which we live. The cost of housing and health care are going up while fewer resources are being put into education and infrastructure. This is happening at a time where lawmakers and advocates are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that social factors have on overall health. The evidence shows that all of these factors are making it harder for hardworking families and individual Floridians to get ahead.
In 2010, the federal Affordable Care Act attempted to move our country beyond the notion only certain ages and “categories” of people deserve the security of health coverage by introducing Medicaid expansion. Unfortunately, after the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that Medicaid expansion would be optional for the states, Florida and 13 other states have refused federal dollars that would provide Medicaid health insurance to low-income uninsured adults.
Florida lawmakers have continued to oppose Medicaid expansion despite years of data showing increased numbers of insured, greater use of health care, better outcomes, and increased financial stability for individuals and the state. A comparison of Medicaid expansion enrollees in Arkansas to similar families in Kentucky (a state which has not expanded Medicaid,) found Medicaid enrollees spent less on health care. The analysis showed “the average newly enrolled Medicaid family saved at least $3,000 annually compared to what they would have spent without Medicaid.”
In states that have expanded Medicaid, legislators have seen significant budget savings from reduced funding for patchwork health-related services. A state’s economy also benefits from increased employment and the resulting economic activity.
Nevertheless, Florida lawmakers continue to strongly reject this great opportunity to help Medicaid and help Floridians realize their full potential. The Florida Senate has twice passed Medicaid expansion bills, but the Florida House of Representatives has blocked it. This year, the Legislature passed a new law that makes it even harder to achieve Medicaid expansion through a ballot initiative, despite overwhelming popular support.
This year, the best gift for Medicaid and the people of Florida is to urge lawmakers to consider expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance to the state’s neediest. Visit www.medicaidmattersflorida.org to learn more!