Health Care

White House to Florida: Medicaid expansion saves lives

Martha Baker (center), president of SEUI Local 1991, delivers 30,000 signatures in support of Medicaid expansion to the Hialeah office of state Rep. Jose Oliva. Hialeah ZIP code 33012, which is in his district, has the highest Affordable Care Act enrollment in the nation, yet Oliva opposes expansion — a provision of the ACA.
Martha Baker (center), president of SEUI Local 1991, delivers 30,000 signatures in support of Medicaid expansion to the Hialeah office of state Rep. Jose Oliva. Hialeah ZIP code 33012, which is in his district, has the highest Affordable Care Act enrollment in the nation, yet Oliva opposes expansion — a provision of the ACA. EL NUEVO HERALD

The Obama administration weighed in on Florida’s legislative debate over Medicaid expansion Thursday with an updated version of a report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, first released in summer 2014 and updated for this year, counting the ways the Sunshine State would gain by opening eligibility for the government healthcare program to nearly all low-income adults.

Most of the projected gains have been trumpeted before: billions of dollars in federal funding and fewer people uninsured or facing medical debt. But, in a reflection of how intense the debate has become, the state-by-state report adds a new measure this year: fewer deaths.

If the 22 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid did so, the report states, 5,200 deaths would be avoided each year. In Florida, the report estimates, 900 fewer people would die each year once coverage was fully in effect.

Washington, D.C., and the 28 states that have already expanded Medicaid will avoid 5,000 deaths per year, according to the report, which derived the estimates from various studies, including two that looked at mortality and access to care after state Medicaid expansions.

The White House released the report, titled Missed Opportunities, just as Florida’s Senate gave bi-partisan approval to a plan that expands Medicaid by drawing federal money into a privately run program to provide subsidized health insurance to low-income, working Floridians.

The plan, named the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange, or FHIX, will go to a vote Friday in the House, where early counts show the measure might be 11 votes short of passage in the 120-member chamber.

It is unclear what impact, if any, the White House report will have on House leaders or Gov. Rick Scott, who oppose using funding from the Affordable Care Act, which provides for Medicaid expansion, while the Senate wants to use the funds to create a state-run alternative.

The report makes a number of claims in evaluating states that have expanded coverage and those that have not.

It states that with Medicaid expansion, 750,000 Floridians would gain insurance coverage in 2016. It estimates that in the past year, about 109,000 additional people would have gotten a cholesterol screening and about 31,000 women would have gotten a mammogram in Florida.

The report also notes that by not expanding Medicaid, Florida will lose about $5.9 billion in federal funding and spend about $790 million more in uncompensated care than if coverage were fully expanded in 2016.

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