No matter which side of the political fence you’re on, health coverage is a big deal. Millions of Floridians aren’t able to afford even the most basic procedures, medications and treatments they need to stay healthy. The prospects for bringing coverage aren’t anything to sneeze at, either.
In one corner, you have the Little Proposal that Could- Medicaid expansion is back on the docket for its third round in the legislative session. Athena Smith Ford, advocacy director for Florida CHAIN, says passing up federal funding for the expansion is a huge waste of time and opportunity
“So, Florida has the opportunity to accept tens of billions of dollars to cover uninsured working Floridians," Ford said, "and when it comes to this money, we either use it or we lose it.”
In addition to the uninsured Floridians, she says, business and medical leaders have also called for change.
"So as we look to session starting," she went on, "we’re hopeful that lawmakers will recognize that the real consequences that this coverage gap is having is not only on our health and families, but also on our hospitals and economy.”
Another person watching the inaction is Progress Florida’s executive director, Mark Ferrulo.
“Next year, 2016, will be the first year that many businesses in Florida, businesses with over 50 employees, will face penalties if they have employees who don’t have health coverage," he explained. "And that’s creating an even bigger financial incentive for big business and big corporations to support this expansion.
Businesses and health care groups have come together in support of a Medicaid expansion. So far, the house and senate are split. The senate wants to expand Medicaid using federal dollars. But the house under speaker Steve Crisafulli does not.
“I am a never-say-never kind of guy," Crisafulli said in late January. "Certainly anything can come about that provides opportunity, but at this time we do not plan to hear Medicaid Expansion.”
Meanwhile, another health care headache looms on the horizon- a lawsuit referred to as “King V. Burwell.” The suit was filed to challenge the legality of those very subsidies. And while the people effected by the ruling of this lawsuit are technically people in a higher income bracket than those who would be effected by the failure to pass Medicaid expansion, that’s still millions of Americans who could be left without medical coverage.
“The millions of Americans who are finally getting health care coverage because it’s finally been made available through federal subsidies," Ferrulo explained. "Depending on how the supreme court rules, those Floridians could lose their coverage.”
Ferrulo doesn't mince words- he attributes the lawsuit to party politics.
“We’re hoping that the court will see that there’s no merit to their case, and that the people will win.”
The health of millions in Florida hinges on the failure of one and the success of another, and as debates are waged in the capital, Florida's unsure and uninsured population is still here, waiting and worrying about how much their next cough will cost them.