Why are thousands of Floridians losing health insurance?
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis reverts the state’s Medicaid system to pre-pandemic structure, leaving thousands without health insurance.
When the covid-19 pandemic took hold in the United States in early 2020, around 29.8 million people lacked access to health insurance —roughly nine percent of the population.
Stay-at-home orders and the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic created unique challenges for the United States because, unlike countries where there is a public healthcare system, most workers and their families receive their insurance through their employers. So, when more than twenty million people were stripped from the labor market in a matter of months, the federal government had to figure out new ways to extend coverage to those who had lost it. The Commonwealth Fund, a research non-profit that focuses on public health, found that by June 2020, 7.7 million workers and 6.9 million of their dependents had lost coverage.
One of the actions taken by Congress was to reduce the burden for many of those impacted to enroll in Medicaid. Typically the process of enrolling in Medicaid requires a strict verification process, but the CARES Act, passed in March 2020, provided additional funds to states that removed these requirements. However, now that the public health emergency has officially ended, those additional funds will end, and some states, like Florida, have decided that they will allow thousands to lose their insurance.
How many people could lose coverage in the state?
In 2018, a third of Florida’s population lived on an income that was two-hundred percent below the federal poverty line, and 16.3 percent were uninsured. The Florida Department of Children and Families reported that between March 2020 and November 2022, the number of residents enrolled in Medicaid rose from 3.8 million to 5.5 million.
Now that the public health emergency has ended, the agency has said they will begin to “follow federal guidance to restore Medicaid eligibility through normal processing while working to ensure eligible recipients remain enrolled.” This process will take up to a year, and the department promises to “notify and communicate to all current Medicaid recipients their redetermination timeframes and next steps.”
The state has not made clear how many of the 1.7 million people who enrolled in Medicaid during the pandemic will lose their health insurance. To date, overall enrollment in Medicaid has actually increased slightly (5.73 million in March vs. 5.78 million in April). Nevertheless, in April, KFF reported that the state reviewed the coverage of roughly 461,000 residents, and more than half (54 percent) were disenrolled.
Who qualifies for Medicaid in Florida?
Florida is one of a dozen states who has not expanded access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. At a baseline, Medicaid is offered to residents with very low incomes and who are either pregnant, in the care of a dependent under eighteen, blind or living with a family member with a disability, or over the age of sixty-five.