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Who Doesn’t Have Health Insurance in South Florida?

October 6, 2013


Amidst all the sound and fury surrounding President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), I think it’s worth pointing out that health insurance coverage in South Florida (and the state in general) is particularly bad compared to other parts of the country.

Nationally, about 15 percent of Americans are not covered by health insurance.  That percentage had already declined slightly with the advent of the ACA’s inclusion of adult children under parents’ policies and other provisions before the roll-out of the health insurance exchanges on October 1.

For Florida as a whole, about 20 percent of the population—1 out of every 5 inhabitants—is uninsured.  For South Florida, the numbers are much higher, reaching above 30 percent in some areas. 

A study published in the National Journal analyzed health coverage by congressional district.  The data for South Florida districts is shown in the graphic above.  In two of the local districts (20 and 24– represented respectively by Democrats Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson) the numbers of uninsured top 30 percent.  Both districts have large populations of minorities and immigrants, who typically have difficulty obtaining health insurance.

But three other local districts have more than 1 in 4 people uninsured:  District 25 represented by Republican Mario Diaz-Balart (29.7 percent); District 27 represented by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (27.7 percent); and District 26 represented by Democrat Joe Garcia (26.9 percent).  ALL of the local districts have numbers of uninsured residents that are higher than the national average.

All of this makes it even harder to understand why South Florida’s Republican representatives continue to rant against the Affordable Care Act and have consistently voted with their party’s unceasing efforts to derail, defund, or repeal this legislation. 

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is often considered one of the more sensible (or at least, non-crazy) Republicans in the House, but she has supported Tea Party efforts to sink the  ACA at every step and has not made a peep in opposition to Ted Cruz’s strategy of holding the US government hostage to defunding Obamacare.

Mario Diaz-Balart has a similar record and even co-sponsored the so-called “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”.

One can only assume that they’re fine with nearly a third of their constituents lacking health insurance.  Neither they, nor anyone else in their party, have proposed an alternative to Obamacare.  They just want to destroy the legislation that promises to provide coverage to the uninsured.

If anything, the record of their Republican colleagues who run the state government is even worse.  Florida is, of course, one of the states that opted to refuse federal money to expand Medicaid coverage for the poorest, even though federal funds would cover 100 percent of the cost for the first three years, and 90 percent thereafter.

Florida did not create its own insurance exchanges for the ACA, leaving that to the federal government.  Moreover, Governor Rick Scott and his Republican colleagues have done everything possible to even prevent the dissemination of information about the ACA to Floridians who will potentially benefit from it.  As the Miami Herald has pointed out, their record on this is nothing short of shameful. 

It’s worth remembering that Rick Scott used to be CEO of a Texas-based private for-profit healthcare company called Columbia/HCA which in 1997 was brought up on federal charges of massive Medicare fraud and eventually admitted to 14 felonies.  Since very narrowly being elected governor, he has consistently attempted to undermine the ACA, while trying to privatize Medicaid and failing to disclose his multimillion dollar investment (technically in his wife’s name) in a medical service company called Solantic which was founded by him and his wife.  Is it any wonder that he opposes Obamacare?

Maybe our Republican politicians are perfectly comfortable with a large proportion of our neighbors lacking access to affordable health care, but I think it’s a disgrace.

By the way, if you’re wondering which state has the lowest number of uninsured residents, it’s Massachusetts.  That’s where the state government in 2006 under the governorship of one Mitt Romney instituted healthcare reform that became the model on which the ACA was based.  FYI, the percentage of uninsured residents in Massachusetts is less than 5 percent. 

To me, that’s pretty good proof that Obamacare will work—especially if the Republicans will stop trying to destroy the federal government to prevent that from happening.

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