Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Health Coverage Gap Impacts Florida Parents 

TALLAHASSEE, FL - Florida parents are among those feeling the effects of the state's decision to turn down federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

A new report by the Urban Institute examines the impact to the more than 800,000 Floridians who fall into the coverage gap; they don't qualify for publicly funded-health coverage or an insurance policy through the Affordable Care Act.

Florida Missing the Boat With Medicaid Expansion

Genevieve Kenney, co-director of the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center, said states such as Florida, which opted out of Medicaid expansion, may be hung up on partisan issues.

"It could also be that there's been so much focus on, and so much rhetoric around, the politics of the Affordable Care Act," she said. "Maybe not quite as much focus on the human dimension and what is at stake for families."

The report said states that have accepted federal funding have seen nearly a 33 percent drop in the rate of parents without health insurance. Florida lawmakers turned down the funding because of concerns over costs to the state. The federal government is paying 100 percent of the cost until 2016 and will reduce its funding to 90 percent by 2020.

Leah Barber-Heinz, chief executive of Florida CHAIN - a group working to increase access to affordable health care - said passing up Medicaid expansion has been especially tough for Florida, with its large service and hospitality industry.

"There are so many folks that are working, for example, in the service industries, and these are low-wage positions," she said. "They do not have access to health coverage in many of these types of jobs, and a lot of these folks are parents and have children at home."

Seventeen percent of uninsured parents surveyed reported having fair or poor health, and slightly more said they had mental health concerns. In her job, Barber-Heinz said, the difficult part is telling parents they're not eligible for health coverage, through Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act.

"It's very frustrating to have to tell them that there are no options for them, essentially," she said, "and the research has shown over and over again that when parents have coverage, children are much more likely to have coverage, and to have health care as well."

According to the research, nearly half of the uninsured parents who were studied lived in southern states and more than half were Latino.

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