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Report: Working Florida Parents Would Benefit from Medicaid Expansion

April 15, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida ranks 49th in the country when it comes to the rate of uninsured parents, and a majority of them are employed. That's according to a report released this week by Kids Well Florida and the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

The Florida Legislature is currently debating a proposal to expand Medicaid to more than 1 million low income citizens. Leah Barber-Heinz, CEO with Florida CHAIN, says the legislature has the power to initiate change.

"The Florida Legislature has a very unique opportunity to make sure parents and families and children, especially working families, are able to access the health care coverage they desperately need," says Barber-Heinz.

Florida is one of 22 states that elected not to accept federal funding under the Affordable Care Act to extend Medicaid coverage to parents and other low income adults. That's left more than a million Floridians excluded from coverage.

Joan Alker, executive director with the Georgetown University Center, says it's important to note many Florida parents who lack health coverage have jobs.

"People often assume if you have a job, you have health insurance but that's just not the case for many of Florida's working families, and that really relates to the structure of Florida's economy," says Alker. "Most of the uninsured parents that could benefit are working in jobs that support Florida's service-based tourist-dependent economy."

According to the report, children eligible for Medicaid coverage or who have parents eligible for Medicaid coverage are more likely to be healthier, graduate from college and succeed financially, which in turn leads to more savings for taxpayers. Barber-Heinz says the time to act is now.

"It's extremely important this happens as soon as possible," she says. "We know people are really struggling out there without health care coverage and we know when people don't have access to health care they often end up in the emergency room, which is extremely expensive for all of us."

The report also finds when parents are insured, their children are more likely to have health coverage. In Florida an estimated 305,000 children are eligible for Medicaid-CHIP but are not enrolled.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL