A recent United Way study reported that 45 percent of Florida’s working families struggle to make ends meet and to afford the basic necessities such as housing, food, transportation, childcare and healthcare. In Miami-Dade, the number is as high as 50 percent. For these hardworking families a single crisis, often a healthcare emergency, can result in financial chaos.
The fact is, Florida has among the highest rates and numbers of people without health-insurance coverage in the nation, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Miami-Dade County ranks first in the state with 35 percent of residents uninsured. Three out of four uninsured Floridians work full or part time and do not have access to affordable health insurance through their employers. They are veterans, moms and dads and young people just entering the workforce, who earn less than $16,000 a year.
When our residents don’t have health insurance and can’t afford care, they avoid going to the doctor and usually wait until they are forced to go to the hospital. This is not an issue that just affects those without health insurance. Lack of coverage has impacts on our community, businesses and hospitals, as well as on the individuals and families who are paying monthly health-insurance premiums.
Finding a way to get more people covered is a community responsibility. At United Way, we focus on education, financial stability and health as the building blocks of our community’s well-being. Access to affordable healthcare is central to this vision. That is why in November 2014 the United Way of Miami-Dade took a position in support of extending healthcare coverage to uninsured Florida residents.
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The state Senate’s Florida Health Insurance Exchange (FHIX), developed and championed by Hialeah’s State Sen. Rene Garcia, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Senate President Andy Gardiner, does just that.
The Senate’s proposed FHIX would use more than $50 billion in available funds to extend healthcare coverage to approximately 800,000 low-income, working Floridians through a private option plan that promotes personal responsibility and healthy lifestyles. The cost of the program is already paid through taxes on health insurers and medical equipment, and reductions in Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals.
But time is running out. We encourage the Florida House to use the remaining days of the 2015 Legislative Session to pass the Senate’s FHIX plan — a common-sense solution that’s in the best interest of South Florida and all Floridians.
Harve A. Mogul, president and CEO, United Way of Miami-Dade
Marielena Villamil, board member, United Way of Miami-Dade