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OPINION: Marc Yacht: Voters should oust the politicians who refuse to expand Medicaid

OPINION: Marc Yacht: Voters should oust the politicians who refuse to expand Medicaid

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Because Florida Republican officials are refusing federal Medicaid dollars, about 1.3 million low-income Florida residents will not get health-care coverage.

Obamacare pays the full cost of expanding Medicaid for the first three years.  After that, the federal government pays 90 percent of the cost.

A family of four could qualify for Medicaid earning up to $32,000 per year.  Salaries to 400 percent of HHS federal poverty guidelines would qualify for subsidies.

Prior to Obamacare, 4.1 million Floridians lacked health insurance. Despite Gov. Rick Scott’s efforts to block Medicaid expansion and enrollment, the number of uninsured has been reduced to 3.4 million.

Despite all the opposition from state Republicans, Medicaid signups in the state have beaten projections. Through February, 440,000 people have enrolled, many with the help of volunteers, including college students, citizen groups, and health insurers.

The state’s refusal to accept federal Medicaid-expansion dollars has lethal implications for the uninsured. It is projected that 1,158 to 2,221 uninsured people will die because the state refused to provide the expanded coverage.

Patients aren’t the only losers. Hospitals and doctors lose because they will not get reimbursed for care.  People who pay for health insurance will pay higher premiums because of the state’s recalcitrance.

States that have expanded Medicaid under Obamacare will reduce the number of uninsured people in half; states that have rejected expansion will cut the number of uninsured by only one fifth.

Aside from the deaths, many uninsured people will be unable to manage their chronic illnesses.  More people will be disabled and unable to work.

Forty-eight million Americans were uninsured in 2012. Under Obamacare, 32 million will be left uninsured. That number could have been reduced another 8 million if all the states had expanded Medicaid.

People who have gotten medical insurance under Obamacare are mostly satisfied.  Most I spoke to saw significant decreases in their premiums.  Some claimed other family members paid more.

One mother said she was unable to make an appointment with one doctor, although he is a listed provider. He claimed the plan dropped him.  She called the insurer who gave a different story and claimed, in fact, the doctor had dropped them.

Another physician would not make an appointment for a child covered under Obamacare for eight weeks.  Although the woman was happy to have discounted insurance, she was frustrated that it would take so long to get care for her daughter.

Another gentleman reported significant savings on premium.  His wife had surgery and although the hospital had admitted her, hospital officials later claimed they were not an Obamacare provider.  Hopefully, this can be resolved as the patient had been admitted and the insurance well understood by the hospital.

Most I speak to are happy with the program.  One person who had been priced out of insurance because of pre-existing conditions, now has affordable coverage.

Obamacare is the first successful effort to address the problem of uninsured Americans.  Despite conservatives’ relentless efforts to sabotage Obamacare, more and more Americans are taking advantage of it.

Those elected officials who continue to oppose Obamacare could pay heavily at the polls.

By Marc Yacht

Dr. Marc Yacht is the retired Director of the Pasco County Health Department (2007). During his 20-year tenure as Health Officer, he expanded services, modernized health department facilities and served on a variety of community boards and committees. He now volunteers at both Pasco County Free clinics as a physician and works on health-related issues in the community. He is active with the Tampa Writer’s Alliance. He and his wife live in Hudson, Florida. They have three adult children. He is currently a candidate for District School Board of Pasco County.

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