Report attributes nearly 2,800 premature deaths of low-income seniors to FL decision not to expand Medicaid

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More low-income seniors may be dying in Florida because of the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, a new study shows.

A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) shows that 2,776 low-income seniors in Florida may have died prematurely between 2014 and 2017 because of the lack of health-care coverage.

Florida had the second-highest premature death rate among the states that have not expanded Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor and disabled, the report shows. Texas had the most premature deaths at 2,920.

Nationally, the report estimates 15,600 adults between the ages of 55 and 64 may have died prematurely between 2014 and 2017 because of the lack of health care coverage in the states that did not expand Medicaid.

Florida and Texas are among the 17 states that have either not expanded Medicaid under the federal health-care law or have voted to expand the program but have not yet implemented it.

Conversely, the report estimates 19,200 low-income seniors may have avoided a premature death in the 33 states that expanded Medicaid.

The CBPP report is based on the work of researchers at the University of Michigan, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Census Bureau and the University of California Los Angeles.

The report notes the research is “consistent with a large body of research that has already documented that Medicaid expansion improves access to care and health outcomes.”

“For example, research shows that Medicaid expansion increased the share of low-income adults using medications to control chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes,” the report said. “The new study finds particularly clear evidence of a drop in mortality from conditions like these, which are amenable to medication and other treatment.”

Democrats in the Florida Legislature support expanding Medicaid in Florida. But the Republican leadership in the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis remain opposed, meaning it is not likely to happen in the 2020 session that begins in January.

“This new evidence that thousands of lives are at stake should give states that have not yet expanded Medicaid one more reason to do so,” the report said. “On top of the already well-documented gains in access to care and financial security, the new study shows that gaining Medicaid coverage is literally a matter of life and death, particularly for people with serious health needs.”

Here is a prior Florida Phoenix report on Medicaid expansion in Florida.