On the opening day of the 2016 hurricane season, Gov. Rick Scott issued a plea to President Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for “federal action to keep our citizens safe and healthy” from an impending Zika outbreak.
In an ironic twist, on the very same day, the federal HHS issued an informational brief to states to clarify that states can use their Medicaid funds to prevent, detect, and respond to the Zika virus. Florida is in jeopardy of having the first mainland mosquito-transmitted Zika cases in the United States. Prevention and surveillance is paramount to preventing an epidemic that could result in babies and adults with severe neurological problems.
While HHS reminds states they may cover mosquito repellents as a benefit to people covered by Medicaid, Florida is lacking in Medicaid funds. Scott and the Legislature turned down $5.9 billion this year alone in expanded Medicaid funding. Those dollars and the $65.1 billion that would follow over the next decade would have been available to provide the action that the governor is now calling on the federal government to provide.
The funds would also cover more than 1.3 million low-income Floridians who remain uninsured.
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The health and safety of Florida’s residents should be of prime concern to all our state leaders. But health and safety is not a seasonal concern, it does not ebb and flow with the sun and moon phases. There are communicable outbreak threats year-round that requires prevention and treatment. The citizens of Florida should issue a call to our governor and Legislature for “state action to keep our citizens safe and healthy.”
All they have to do is accept the expanded eligibility offer for health coverage for low-income adults to ensure health and safety of Floridians.
Jeff Berman, member, Board of Directors, Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network),