Building Philanthropy for a Better Florida

FHF: Groups See Two Paths to Expanding Medicaid in Florida

July 16, 2020

This article was created by FPN's Florida Health Funders (FHF) affinity group.

Harry, a 28-year-old graduate student who moved from the Northeast to South Florida to study business administration. Guliet, a 39-year-old mother and wife working part-time at a distribution center in Miami. Melissa, a stay-at-home mom in Baker County struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety. Thomas, a hardworking 61-year-old from Orlando whose untreated health issues halted his active lifestyle and ability to maintain work. Deborah, a 34-year-old entrepreneur in Key West.

What do these Floridians have in common?

They are among the estimated 600,000 low-wage workers, students, entrepreneurs, stay-at-home parents and caretakers who reside in Florida but can’t access health insurance from employers and don’t meet state eligibility requirements for health insurance through Medicaid.

Thanks to health advocacy nonprofits like Florida Voices for Health and Florida Health Justice Project, a picture has emerged of the diverse people who would be able to gain health insurance coverage through Medicaid, if the eligibility criteria were to expand to include all low-income Floridians. These same organizations have also been at the forefront advocating for this public policy change since it became a state option in 2012, following the United States Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Medicaid expansion coalition led by Florida Voices for Health has continuously centered the experiences and stories of impacted Floridians, which is important given how politically polarizing the policy issue has been in Florida and nationally.

There are two primary ways Florida could expand Medicaid coverage: (1) legislatively, having both houses in the Florida Legislature vote in favor of expansion and the Governor sign it into law; or (2) amending the state constitution, through a ballot initiative. While most of the 38 states (as well as D.C.) that have adopted expansion chose the legislative route, an increasing number have adopted Medicaid expansion through ballot initiative. The most recent of these five states was Oklahoma, where voters approved a Medicaid expansion ballot initiative in July 2020.

At present, the Florida Medicaid expansion coalition is exploring both options, legislatively and through a possible ballot initiative, to advocate for expanded coverage for Floridians like Harry, Guliet, Melissa, Harry and Deborah. Given the significant number of Floridians impacted by this public policy issue, members of the FPN Florida Health Funders affinity group have been monitoring progress of the Medicaid expansion coalition to better understand solutions to increasing access to health care in the State of Florida.

The COVID-19 pandemic along with renewed focus on the harmful impacts of racism have highlighted the inextricable connection between health and community; the health of people and communities is impacted by, and directly impacts, all other aspects of community life. FPN members with an interest in this issue are invited to join the Florida Health Funders as we continue to learn and act to improve the health of Floridians.

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