New study: FL sees high rates of uninsured children from not expanding Medicaid

Protestors carry signs as they demonstrate against proposed cuts to health care programs, including Medicaid. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Florida is among only twelve states that have not expanded Medicaid for low-income residents, leading to high rates of children without health coverage,  a new study shows.

The report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows that:

“As of December 2020, 39 states (including the District of Columbia) have expanded Medicaid thereby extending coverage to all adults up to 138 percent FPL ($17,609 for an individual or $29,974 for a family of three). There are 12
states still refusing to accept the federal funding available for
Medicaid expansion.”

States such as Florida that haven’t expanded Medicaid – designed to help residents from mainly low-income backgrounds gain health coverage – are located mostly in the South, including Georgia, Texas and North Carolina.

The number of uninsured children in states that have not expanded Medicaid grew tremendously between 2016 and 2019, compared to expansion states, according to the report.

“Non-expansion states saw their child uninsured rate jump from 6.5 percent to 8.1 percent during the period,” the report said, compared to states expanding Medicaid that had seen an “increase from 3.5 percent to 4.1 percent.”

And those non-expansion states grew at “nearly three times the rate of expansion states” from 2016 to 2019.

That report cited two states, Florida and Texas, “responsible for 41 percent of the coverage losses for children” over that three-year period.

Meanwhile, inequities in access to health care have been an ongoing issue especially in communities of color, and amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

And even as the 2021 legislative session looms, it’s unlikely state lawmakers in Florida will expand the Medicaid program, which could help save the lives of uninsured Floridians needing critical health care.

Children in Medicaid expansion states have benefited by gaining health coverage because their parents have been able to gain affordable health coverage.

“When parents gain Medicaid coverage, they are more likely to enroll their children in whole family health coverage,” Adam Searing, research professor at Georgetown University, said in a prepared statement.

“With many parents losing their jobs and their health insurance, those living in states that have not expanded Medicaid struggle to find affordable health coverage as the safety net is not there to catch them as it is in other states,” said Searing, who was the lead author of the report.

Medicaid coverage for adults has also been linked to better reproductive health for women and “associated with lower maternal and infant mortality rates,” the report found.