Activists Put Pressure on House Republicans as Medicaid Expansion Fight Heats Up
Miami– This week health care activists and community groups across the state held press conferences and rallys targeting Republican House members who are against expanding health care for the 800,000 plus Floridians currently in the coverage gap. Activists in four cities delivered a petition signed by over 13,500 demanding health care expansion to the offices of Rep. Jose Oliva in Hialeah, Rep. Bill Hager in Boca Raton, Rep. Shawn Harrison in Tampa and Rep. Kathleen Peters in St. Petersburg.
Last month, House Republican leaders abruptly ended the legislative session rather than consider the Senate's proposal to accept federal dollars to expand health care to uninsured Florida residents. The move left patients, hospitals and taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars -- and derailed the state budget in the process. Now, the budget will be hammered out in the special session that begins June 1 with Medicaid Expansion being a top item of contention on the agenda.
The well attended press conferences held Thursday and Friday this week included testimony from local residents who fall in the coverage gap and struggle to manage their medical issues.
"I am frustrated to know that elected government officials are denying me the opportunity for adequate medical care while they live with the benefits of the Cadillac health insurance coverage that comes with their positions in office," said Isabel Betancourt, a Florida International University student from Miami who suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis and is in the coverage gap. Betancourt, 31 struggles to pay her medical bills due to her lack of health coverage and would benefit from health care expansion. "I urge you to put aside professional ambitions and political agendas and work towards a solution that can better the lives of the constituents who elected you and whom you swore to serve," Betancourt said, speaking outside of Rep. Jose Oliva's office Thursday.
"I would just like our leaders in Tallahassee to stop fighting and start thinking about people like me who are stuck without any health coverage," said John Harris a 41 year old Delray Beach resident who is one of Florida's more than 800,000 in the coverage gap. "I want to let our Reps. know that there are people in their districts like me who are suffering because they continue to do nothing."
"I’ve worked my entire life and have been without insurance for years and I deserve to be treated with dignity,” said Joann Schenk, a St. Petersburg resident and cancer patient who was diagnosed during an emergency room visit while in the coverage gap. "It's time that our Reps in Tallahassee put people over politics and do something to fix Florida's broken health care system. Health care expansion is the right thing to do and would help so many others like me who are needlessly suffering without health care coverage."
The numbers speak for themselves on this issue. In just the four counties alone where events were held this week, an estimated 403,465 Floridians would be covered by expanding Medicaid. By County the number of Floridians who would be covered if Medicaid is expanded:
- 69,538 in Hillsborough County
- 44,980 in Pinellas County
- 211,984 in Miami-Dade County
- 76,963 in Palm Beach County
By refusing to expand health care, Rick Scott and the Republican led House are preventing 800,000 plus hard working people from gaining coverage, costing the state $8.9 billion in economic activity and 71,300 new jobs and denying local hospitals $22.6 billion in reimbursements. The continued refusal to extend health care to Floridians is nothing more than political posturing at the expense of thousands in our communities. We urge members of the House to do their jobs and support the bipartisan budget the Senate has proposed.
This week's press conferences were coordinated in conjunction with our coalition partners: Awake Miami, Familias Unidas, Florida Council of Churches, Florida Progressives, Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, SEIU Florida, SEIU Local 1991, South Florida Voices for Working Families, Florida New Majority, South Florida Progressive Jewish Action, LCLAA, South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, Awake Palm Beach & FCAN.
SEIU Florida represents over 55,000 active and retired healthcare professionals, public employees, and property service workers in the state of Florida. SEIU members provide vital public services in Florida’s hospitals, nursing homes, public schools, community colleges, municipal and county governments, malls, and universities. With over 2.1 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America.