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Florida's Rural Children Rely on Medicaid

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Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the nation. (Mike Baca)
Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the nation. (Mike Baca)
June 8, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A new report shows Medicaid plays a larger role in Florida's small towns than it does in larger urban areas.

The report looked at all 50 states and found that in Florida, 57 percent of rural children are enrolled in Medicaid, compared to 44 percent in urban areas. Anne Swerlick, health policy analyst with the Florida Policy Institute, said the good news is, from 2008 to 2015, the number of uninsured kids dropped significantly, while Medicaid funding increased.

But under the GOP health care plan in Congress, she said Florida is set to lose $7 billion over the next ten years. It could mean many families won't have health insurance - which would have a ripple effect in their communities.

"They can't see a doctor and they're more likely to end up in emergency rooms and hospitals,” Swerlick said. “And rural hospitals are particularly vulnerable to uncompensated care costs."

The report said nationwide, about 45 percent of children in small towns and rural areas rely on Medicaid for their coverage, compared to 38 percent in metro areas. And 75 percent of kids with specialized medical issues such as asthma, cancer or developmental disabilities live in low- or middle-income families.

Swerlick said more than 2 million Florida children rely on Medicaid, but the state still has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country.

"Radically restructuring the Medicaid program would set us way back in the progress we've made,” she said. “And this is not the direction we want to go."

The report, from the Georgetown University Center on Children and Families, also found the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion has had a greater positive impact in small towns and rural areas than in urban areas.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - FL