Healthcare in Florida: A reform laggard with much to gain

By Tom Sullivan
09:23 AM

In addition to being the sole state named on the moniker Florida et al vs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services case that the Supreme Court will hear in late March, Florida is one of four states trailing the most on health reform.

That’s according to a survey published this week by the self-described non-partisan Urban Institute, which listed those states as Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Ohio.

Florida “has figured prominently in the health reform lawsuit that is coming before the Supreme Court, and they have returned their planning grant,” said Matthew Buettgens, PhD, senior research methodologist at the Urban Institute and one of the study’s authors. “There is clearly hostility among elected officials. However, they applied for the planning grant in the first place, so the hostility is not unanimous.”

[Related: Healthcare ‘flubs in Florida’ debates, Santorum under the gun, Sebelius on Jon Stewart.]

Indeed, there is rage from both sides, with Republicans against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and a bitter distaste from the left about that defiance toward health reform. Governor Rick Scott, a multi-millionaire and former healthcare executive, came under fire last summer along with the state legislature for simultaneously resisting health reform efforts that would expand coverage to more citizens while themselves receiving benefits at $30 a month for the family plan, and just cents over $8 a month for individuals.

And Governor Scott is catching heat again this week from both Republicans and Democrats for his plan to cut $2 billion to Medicaid.

That, in a state with the 48th-worst ranking of uninsured people younger than 65, according to America’s Health Ranking, sponsored by United Health Foundation.

Such a low ranking places Florida snugly in the category of “states that have made the least progress toward establishing their exchanges,” according to the Urban Institute’s study, which emphasizes that the states are also ripe “to benefit the most from the ACA in terms of covering their uninsured population.”

Particular to Florida, the report puts the dollar value of uncompensated care decline at $3.4 billion. What’s more, Florida is trailing despite evidence that reform has helped 172,000 seniors save nearly $100 million on medications, resulted in 1.7 million seniors getting free preventative care, and is projected to save Medicare beneficiaries some $3,500 during the next decade.

Source: Urban Institute

[Related: S.C. shares safety-net data to improve Medicaid.]

Florida, of course, is not alone in its hostility or in being a laggard, health reform-wise.

“In a large number of states, Republicans appear divided between those who oppose everything associated with ‘ObamaCare’ and those who are interested in setting up health insurance exchanges, particularly for small business,” Urban Institute’s Buettgens explained. “Colorado, for example, passed legislation for the exchanges with the backing of business groups in the state including the Chamber of Commerce and the NFIB. However, many of those who voted for it are facing Tea Party opposition in primaries this year.”

The campaign will really heat up after Florida, as Colorado, along with Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, and Nevada hold primaries on February 4.

For more of our primaries coverage, visit the Elections 2012 page.