Medicaid is a program initiated by the federal government in 1965 to provide health insurance for adults with low incomes, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. While this program was started by the federal government, individual states bear the responsibility of making sure insurance through Medicaid is provided for eligible populations. Recently, in 2010, with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, states can expand the criteria for eligibility for Medicaid. Many states have expanded the criteria for Medicaid, but Florida has not yet.
Currently in Florida, in order to be eligible for Medicaid, a family of three has to be making less than $7,000 a year. This is about 30% below the Federal Poverty Level. Adults who do not have children do not qualify for Medicaid regardless of their income. Because of this, a large coverage gap has been created in Florida. The coverage gap exists among those who do not qualify for Medicaid but also cannot afford to pay for insurance by themselves. This gap leaves around 400,000 people in Florida without insurance. In total, 13% of Florida’s population is uninsured, putting Florida fourth in the nation for most uninsured people. Many communities can benefit from Medicaid expansion:
Low wage workers
Those who have lost their jobs
The growing elderly population
Those with disabilities
Florida’s significant immigrant population
Minority communities and
Those with preexisting conditions
The current coverage gap is only exacerbated by the current COVID-19 crisis. Since the coronavirus started spreading in the United States, millions of people have lost their jobs and their way of life. In the United States around 38 million jobless claims were filed since the crisis has started. Florida’s own unemployment claims are at a historic high due to the COVID-19 crisis. This loss of jobs is hitting some industries harder than others. Hourly wage workers are those most likely to lost their jobs during this time. Those who work for the transportation, hospitality, and restaurant and food industries are more likely to be hit with job losses than those in other sectors of the economy. Many are relying on funds from unemployment benefits to help pay for things like rent and other bills. Filing for unemployment can be especially tough for those in Florida because of lack of funds and the possibility that filing will have to be through paper methods instead of online. This can add time for applications to be approved and benefits received.
With the loss of jobs, many can lose their health insurance coverage or can no longer be able to afford health insurance in order to pay for other necessities. There is an overlap between the population that is currently experiencing unemployment and the population that will benefit from Medicaid expansion. This is the same population that will increase the health insurance coverage gap. If Medicaid is expanded, there is the potential to provide health insurance to thousands who otherwise would have to pay out of pocket for routine health visits.
Those hit hardest by COVID-19 are struggling to make ends meet and may experience financial crises should they have to pay health related expenses. The industries hit hardest by the coronavirus in Florida regarding job losses also overlap with the population that meets the requirement for Medicaid expansion, those who would get proper health insurance if Medicaid criteria is expanded in Florida:
Food preparation and Service – 13.1% of working adults eligible for Medicaid expansion
Sales – 13.0% of working adults eligible for Medicaid expansion
Cleaning and Maintenance – 12.3% of working adults eligible for Medicaid expansion
Construction – 10.6% of working adults eligible for Medicaid expansion
Transportation – 9.4% of working adults eligible for Medicaid expansion
The economic impact of coronavirus is expected to last far longer than state lockdowns and social distancing practices. By increasing Medicaid coverage and having more people be eligible for Medicaid, the state of Florida can avoid going into a larger economic crisis by ensuring that people have health insurance. When people have health insurance, they are able to get the care they need when they are sick and able to pay for other necessities such as bills.
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