Editor’s note: This is an abridged article published by Florida Phoenix on October 8, 2020
By Issac Morgan
Florida is among the worst states in the nation when it comes to people who are uninsured — an estimated 13.2 percent in 2019, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report.
Voters in Florida and across the nation must decide on a candidate who they feel can strengthen, expand and protect health care programs such as Medicaid, generally for those with limited income, and Medicare, the national health insurance program for people at least age 65.
Florida lawmakers refuse to expand Medicaid
Medicaid expansion in the state has been an ongoing and troubling issue for those without insurance. Expanding the program could help uninsured Floridians needing critical health care to save their lives.
But Florida lawmakers have failed to expand the Medicaid program that provides health services for the most vulnerable population – those living in poverty and disabled residents.
“It’s been multiple [legislative] sessions that the Legislature has not even given a hearing on the bill,” Anne Swerlick, senior policy analyst at the Florida Policy Institute, said in a phone conversation.
“Sadly, I think there is a lot of ideological baggage connected with the issue. There was a study that shows people are prematurely dying because we have not expanded Medicaid.”
As previously reported by the Phoenix, a U.S. Census Bureau report revealed that the number of uninsured residents in Florida climbed from 2.68 million in 2017 to 2.73 million in 2018, or an increase of about 52,000 Floridians.
That report ranked Florida the fourth highest rate in the nation for residents lacking health insurance in 2018. That ranking remains the same in the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau report. Across the nation, about two-thirds of states, and Washington, D.C., have expanded Medicaid.
COVID-19 triggers cuts in health coverage
Millions of Americans have lost jobs and their employer sponsored health insurance as a result of the coronavirus crisis, said Sara R. Collins, vice president of the Commonwealth Fund’s Health Care Coverage and Access.
“There have been losses but it has hit industries that tend not to provide employer-based health coverage…about 3 million people are probably uninsured as a result of losing their employer coverage,” Collins said, referencing a July report from the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research group.
Poll shows Biden is more trusted to secure affordable health care
Priorities USA, a political action committee, released a television ad titled “Mask” against President Trump in September, blasting the president for fighting to eliminate affordable health care protections under the Affordable Care Act at a time when millions of Americans have lost jobs and health insurance during the pandemic.
In early September, the group released results from a poll of voters from battleground states including Florida and found that 49 percent of voters trust Joe Biden to ensure people have access to affordable health care over Trump by a 37-point margin, with 12 percent.
According to a press release, the poll was conducted through a live phone survey in August with voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona and Wisconsin.
President Trump and other Republicans attempt to strike down Obamacare
There is a battle in the U.S. Supreme Court to defend Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, signed by former President Barack Obama in 2010.
The court case, California v. Texas, involves President Donald Trump and other Republican-led states attempting to dismantle the ACA by challenging the law’s constitutionality.
More than 1.9 million Florida residents signed up for Obamacare during open enrollment that ended Dec. 17, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
And if ACA is eliminated, the number of uninsured people in the United States would increase by 19.9 million, or more than 65 percent, according to a 2019 analysis from the Urban Institute.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody joined the lawsuit along with a coalition of other GOP-controlled states. Here is a previous Florida Phoenix report on the issue.
An oral argument before the Supreme Court could come as soon as October, although a decision by the court may not be made until after the 2020 election, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.
“For four years, President Trump has tried to crush the ACA in the courts…the case will be heard one week after the election. Joe Biden will work to lower the cost of health care,” said U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida during a video press conference last week.
Pre-existing conditions – or not
In late September, President Trump signed an executive order that he said would protect people with pre-existing conditions but many top Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued that the move was a “farce” while his administration continues attempts to strike down protections under Obamacare.
Trump’s recent nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court was backed by U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida but was met with criticism from Democrats who feel the conservative jurist would jeopardize health care and abortion rights.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a South Florida Democrat, said in a late September written statement:
“This craven court-packing push is fueled by the Republicans‘ drive to dismantle health care protections that 135 million people with pre-existing conditions, including me, rely upon, as well as to subvert reproductive rights.
Elect Joe Biden & Kamala Harris and Democrats up and down the ballot to ensure affordable health care.