As summer ended most Floridians were worried about things like getting kids back to school and the upcoming football season. Hurricane Irma was a devastating reminder of how quickly things can change.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all Floridians and Texans whose lives were upended by the recent storms. It will be some time before everyone finds some normalcy, but communities in both states have rallied to support their neighbors.
Addressing health care needs is a critical part of rebuilding after any natural disaster. However, while Floridians are only beginning to see the extent of the damage, lawmakers in Washington are moving to limit funding and access to care.
While federal agencies such as FEMA and the CDC step in to help the survivors of these events, Medicaid plays a similarly essential role in responding to public health emergencies after natural disasters.
The latest ACA repeal bill sponsored by Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham would significantly cut and cap Medicaid, making it more difficult for our state officials to provide during extremely difficult moments.
Medicaid is imperative during natural disasters because of its financial structure – the federal government pays a large percentage of its funds, without any limit. If Florida spends more on Medicaid, the federal government spends more on Florida Medicaid. If the caps in the Graham-Cassidy bill are applied to Medicaid, this would no longer be true.
When disasters like Irma strike, Medicaid serves as a valuable tool to quickly enroll affected people in temporary or permanent health care coverage and to allow for rapid access to medical care, including mental health services.
During Hurricane Irma, as we saw with Hurricane Katrina, people lost their homes, their businesses, suffered severe mental and physical anguish, and were in prompt need of health care. The flexibility of Medicaid allowed Florida and Louisiana to quickly address the issues of costs and access for the thousands of displaced residents.
The current Graham-Cassidy bill will handcuff Florida’s ability to help eligible children, elderly, and disabled Floridians even in the absence of a disaster, but especially in that critical time.