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Florida Health News

A Healthy Florida Works

Florida’s Expansion of Health Insurance

EXTENDED HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE CREATES JOBS AT HOME

As our community's health care destination and as one of the largest public health systems in the state of Florida, Lee Memorial Health System serves all patients regardless of their financial status. In recent months, we have asked you to stand up with us for our hardworking, uninsured neighbors by contacting our political leaders and urging them to expand health care coverage. Now, with billions of federal funds at stake for Florida and millions at stake for our community, we are asking for your help once again.

Throughout the next decade, there is $51 billion of federal funds—money that the taxpayers of Florida are now, and by law, will be sending to Washington, D.C.—that are specifically assessed to extend health care coverage to one million or more working, uninsured Floridians. Leveraging this money is good for our economy and the future of our state. In fact, a University of Florida study shows that using the available federal funds to extend health insurance coverage will create 121,000 jobs throughout the next decade, including more than 10,000 in our community alone.

Additionally, with 4 million Floridians without health insurance and many seeking treatment in hospital emergency departments where they know they will not be turned away because of inability to pay, the burden of unpaid services shift to individuals, private insurers, hospitals, businesses, employers and the state. This "hidden tax" drives up the cost of health care for everyone and, if we do not accept the federal funds over the next decade, makes Florida business less attractive and competitive. It also reduces access to services for all 19 million Floridians and the many millions of visitors and snowbirds.

This is an even more pressing issue for our community, as Southwest Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured in the state. At 30 percent, we are second only to Miami/Dade County. Only 1 in 5 patients admitted to Lee Memorial Health System hospitals has commercial insurance, which means these patients and their employers receive the full burden of the hidden tax of cost-shifting.

During this past Florida legislative session, the Senate voted with bipartisan support to extend health care coverage; unfortunately, the House leadership opposed accepting any federal funds.

Florida is at a crossroads, and we all must unite to stand up for what is right for our state—not only for our hardworking, low-income neighbors but also for our businesses, our economy and our future. As someone who has been involved with the health care in our community for nearly four decades, I can tell you this is the single biggest game changer we have faced in my career and everyone—every employer and business—will be affected.

Therefore, we are asking that you join A Healthy Florida Works coalition—a grassroots effort to spread the word of the importance of our legislature to help extend health care coverage. Visit www.AHealthyFloridaWorks.com. Here you can thank our local senators, Lizbeth Benacquisto and Garrett Richter, for their commitment to ensuring Floridians have access to affordable health insurance. You also can join the coalition to encourage our Florida house members.

Together, we can inspire change. Thank you for your support of this extremely worthwhile endeavor. Together we are caring people, caring for people.


SUPPORT AND RESOURCES