Florida needs health reform
My Turn: Other views from those in the know
Florida needs health reform
Rep. Perry Thurston
Florida House Democratic Leader-designate
To save lives and improve health outcomes, Gov. Rick Scott and Florida’s Republican legislative leaders should end their demagoguery about the Affordable Care Act. Now is the time to exercise bipartisanship and leadership by expanding Florida’s Medicaid programs to help the middle class and the poor.
Specifically, Florida needs to make preparations now to use federal funds that will provide Medicaid coverage for adults who earn up to 133 percent of the poverty line, or $25,390 for a family of three. Rejecting this opportunity, as Gov. Scott has suggested, would not only lack compassion but it would be an unfair blow to Florida’s families.
For the first time, our state and nation are in position to guarantee a decent standard of health care that is affordable for all lawfully present residents. Gov. Scott shouldn’t stand in the way of this economic progress with fatigued arguments about budgets and states’ rights. Rather, I urge the Republican governor and GOP lawmakers to review recent research that shows that Medicaid expansion can be a lifesaver.
A statistical study by Harvard University researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that a 6 percent drop in the adult death rate in three states (Arizona, Maine and New York) are attributable to those states having expanded coverage for low-income residents. If applied to Florida, the difference in mortality rates would yield about 5, 680 fewer deaths per year among adults under the age of 65.
I have to wonder if the authors of the Harvard School of Public Health study had Gov. Scott in mind when they wrote: “Policymakers should be aware that major changes in Medicaid – either expansions or reductions in coverage—may have significant effects on the health of vulnerable populations.”
In addition to the drop in death rates among adults ages 20 to 64, the Harvard study found a 21 percent drop in delays getting care blamed on cost barriers. What’s more, the study is the second prominent report to document the benefits of Medicaid. A study of Oregonians published last year found that those with Medicaid are far more likely to get regular medical care, including preventative screenings that can lower the overall health costs.
Expanding Medicaid to low-income adults is associated with significant gains in health and survival. Further, Gov. Scott must recognize that our state needs a strong middle class, and that the middle class needs the security that no matter what health calamity might befall their family, they should be able to buy insurance that provides good care.