When Florida indicated it was in agreement with Obamacare on expanding Medicaid for its residents at the beginning of 2013, low income Floridians heaved a sigh of relief. This expansion under the Affordable Care Act was to be their shot at better, affordable health care in a state where high unemployment and poverty rates were very high. However, by the end of 2014, Florida is still not ready with the Medicaid expansion after nearly two years of siding with the program
Through a decision was made by Governor Rick Scott and the state accepted federal funds by agreeing to expand Medicaid for low income Floridians, the state has not gone through with the actions, leaving the federal funding out of reach of the taxpayers. Ultimately, Florida decided not to expand Medicaid, leaving its people stranded in the Obamacare coverage gap.
Now, since Florida has no plans to expand Medicaid, low income adults of the state are earning too little to qualify for premium tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. In states that expanded Medicaid the situation of these young adults would have been much better. For example, in California, a low earning young individual with an annual income of $12,000 would only be required to pay $20 per month for health insurance premiums. If the annual income is less than $11,000, the health insurance coverage is free of cost. In these where Medicaid is expanding, both the cost cutting facets of ACA are being put to use. People are either earning enough to qualify for premium tax credits that cut down their health insurance premiums to nominal price, or earning so little that they fall under the net of expanded Medicaid.
Without the Medicaid expansion in Florida, nearly 1 million people do not have access to better health coverage. Out of these 1 million, a little more than 33 percent are young adults with insufficient annual earnings. As many as 25 percent of young Floridians in the age group of 18 to 34 live in poverty, and for a state without Medicaid, the situation is naturally bad. Rising education costs and falling employment rates are some other troubles that are hounding this age group, ultimately causing them to be unfit and being the second most common age group that uses the emergency room, after the seniors.
With young, uninsured Floridians struggling with employment, income, and health insurance, the state administration definitely needs find a solution. Fortunately, the state administration admits that the coverage gap is a pain for Floridians and the state is ready to make some amends to close this gap as soon as possible. The state might actually take a leaf from Arkansas’ book and deliver a better solution. Instead of using the help of public programs, the state might use the available federal funding to pay for private health insurance that can cover some of these low-income young individuals. These private plans could provide these individuals with much needed coverage without turning into a liability on public programs, a facet that could satisfy conservatives and liberals both.
In any case, Florida’s leadership needs to move quickly. After the recent elections, the new legislative session will see a renewed debate on the health coverage gap, and if Governor Rick Scott prepares in advance, he could save a lot of time and energy of the session by providing them with a viable plan that can satisfy both the parties. Without an extended, contentious debate, the leadership can affect a closure of the health coverage gap for these young, uninsured individuals who are struggling to make ends meet.