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Zika Virus Highlights Health Care Shortage in Florida

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As the number of locally-transmitted Zika cases grows, so do frustrations over Florida's health care inequities. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
As the number of locally-transmitted Zika cases grows, so do frustrations over Florida's health care inequities. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
August 11, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As the Zika virus continues to spread, Gov. Rick Scott is urging pregnant women to talk with their doctors about prevention strategies, which is no easy task for many Florida women caught in the so-called coverage gap.

House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, who also is the CEO of the health advocacy group Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network), says the governor's advice makes no sense to the estimated 200,000 Florida women who can't afford marketplace insurance, but don't qualify for traditional Medicaid.

"They don't have the ability to pay to go see somebody when they get sick,” he points out. “Or in the Zika scenario, they don't have anybody that they normally routinely use as a physician, or OBGYN in this case, to go talk to. "

While Scott has opposed Medicaid expansion in the state, his administration says pregnant women can get tested for the virus free of charge at any county health department.

Last month, the governor announced plans to provide Zika prevention kits to pregnant women in affected areas.

However it's unclear where those kits were distributed. The total number of Floridians infected with Zika locally now stands at 21, according to the state.

The governor continues to press Congress for additional federal funding to fight the spread of the disease. But Pafford argues the Republican-led legislature's cuts to women's health and mosquito-control programs, as well as its refusal to expand Medicaid, undermine that battle.

"It really demonstrates how far Florida has just dropped to the bottom, in terms of how we provide as a state and protect our citizens,” he states. “This isn't the federal government's responsibility – it's Florida first."

In nearby Louisiana, the state's expanded Medicaid program is now covering mosquito repellent for pregnant women and recipients who plan to become pregnant.


Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL