Florida should comply with federal health care provisions

On July 3, 2012

In light of the Supreme Courts recent health care rulings, Gov. Rick Scotts decision not to uphold some of the optional provisions of the law seems to be, as Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, said, short-sighted.

According to CBS News, 3.85 million Floridians are without health insurance, which is about 21 percent of the population.

The Supreme Courts decision to uphold what was referred to by opponents, and later by Obama himself, as Obamacare, which includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, could potentially help over 1.5 million uninsured Floridians.

Additionally, 22.4 million uninsured Americans would obtain coverage by 2015 as part of the Medicaid expansion that allows those earning less than $15,000 annually to now be eligible, according to Avalere, a health care consulting firm.

Nonetheless, according to Scott, Florida cannot afford such an expansion. Because the Supreme Court gives states the choice of opting out of the portion of the law that calls for the expansion of Medicaid, the state will not implement that portion.

Scott also said Florida would not carry out federal health insurance exchanges.

The problem with Scotts decision is that not carrying out a Medicaid expansion would mean that 21 percent of the Florida population will not be helped, including 506,000 children.

Moreover, the Medicaid expansion would not cost Florida anything until 2017, and according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the state would pay $2.4 billion between 2013 and 2018, while the federal government would pay $26 billion.

What Floridians could end up missing out on includes a ban on refusing coverage to people who have pre-existing medical conditions, an elimination of lifetime coverage limits on certain health care policies, the creation of a minimum health benefits package and the requirement for health insurance companies to allow children and young adults to remain on their parents insurance until the age of 26.

Meanwhile, not implementing the expansion leaves the people who would have been covered under the expansion to find their own insurance plans to avoid paying the penalty tax.

According to Sen. Rich, more people enrolling in Medicaid means less money needed to treat uninsured patients in emergency rooms at public hospitals, and that, combined with the payment for preventive care, will lower the total costs states must pay.

Though Scotts decision is not final and the state does not need to implement anything before January 2014, Florida must be able to set aside party affiliations and personal agendas and do what is best for its residents. As Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla, said, our system was broken, and we had to do something.

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