All Florid­i­ans de­serve health care

Orlando Sentinel - - OPINION - By Dick Batch­e­lor

Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, the per­cent­age of unin­sured Amer­i­cans has dropped. To­day, more than 20 mil­lion of us have ac­cess to health care thanks to the ACA and Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion. That’s the good news. Un­for­tu­nately, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans are still unin­sured. Last year alone, more than 2.6 mil­lion Florid­i­ans did not have the safety net of health in­sur­ance at one time or an­other. That’s nearly 13 per­cent of our pop­u­la­tion, a rate that tops the na­tional av­er­age and ranks as the fifth high­est in the coun­try.

The rea­sons vary why so many peo­ple do not have health in­sur­ance, but for many it boils down to ba­sic math: They sim­ply can­not af­ford it.

So how do we change this dynamic? For­tu­nately, we don’t need to start over with a Medi­care-for all so­lu­tion to move for­ward. The model that’s in place is solid. We can – and should – build on what’s al­ready work­ing.

Take a mo­ment to think again about those 20 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who have been helped by the ACA. More than 1.7 mil­lion are in Florida. Some – maybe many – live with chronic ill­nesses such as di­a­betes, asthma or can­cer. Be­fore the ACA, these in­di­vid­u­als may have been de­nied cov­er­age or charged higher pre­mi­ums be­cause of their pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions. With the ACA, that can’t hap­pen. They’re pro­tected. And it’s life-chang­ing.

Yes, there is al­ways room for im­prove­ment, but the ACA works. It’s a good foun­da­tion on which to build. Through the ACA and Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion, we can bring health in­sur­ance to more low-in­come in­di­vid­u­als.

There’s no rea­son why Florida can’t do this.

Other states have done it and seen much larger de­creases in the rates of their unin­sured. There are other ben­e­fits as well. Re­search has found that ex­pand­ing Med­i­caid has had a pos­i­tive ef­fect on ac­cess to care as well as the af­ford­abil­ity of care. By some es­ti­mates, this ap­proach would reach more than 650,000 unin­sured Florid­i­ans – many of whom are in a work­ing fam­ily.

It’s smart. It’s pos­si­ble. It’s the right so­lu­tion. Rather than push our own ver­sion of “re­peal and re­place,” a strat­egy the Repub­li­cans tried from the out­set but that ul­ti­mately failed, our pri­or­ity should be to save the ACA. In­stead of risk­ing ev­ery­thing on the mi­rage of Medi­care-for-all, we must fo­cus on clos­ing the gap for those who make too much to qual­ify for Med­i­caid but not enough to qual­ify for pre­mium sub­si­dies.

If we don’t, we risk some­thing far greater: leav­ing some of our most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens be­hind.

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