Hospitals aren’t the only targets in Tallahassee when it comes to Medicaid. House Republicans want poor people on Medicaid to meet new work requirements and pay fees or get cut off. It is a callous attempt to control costs on the backs of the poorest Floridians by rationing access to health care that should be a fundamental right.
Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, pitches these punitive requirements by calling for individuals to take more responsibility for their health. The Trump administration makes the same argument, and it’s hard to knock individual responsibility. Government already encourages people to stop smoking, start exercising and eat healthy.
But this is punishment for being poor and will not lead to people being healthier. It will cause them to go without medical treatment and preventive care, leading to more expensive health issues later. What work requirements and fees are really about is denying care to reduce Medicaid costs and divert state tax money elsewhere.
Supporters argue similar requirements were in legislation that would have expanded Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of Floridians but failed to pass the House two years ago. But a family of three could have qualified for Medicaid expansion and earned up to $27,800 a year. These proposed $5 or $10 monthly fees would be for adults in a family of three making less than $6,652 a year. That’s heaping pain upon poverty.
Florida is incredibly stingy with Medicaid. It generally does not cover childless adults, and it ranks last nationally in Medicaid spending on children. Many doctors refuse to see Medicaid patients because the payments are so low — one reason those patients often visit more expensive hospital emergency rooms.
Don’t make it even harder for Florida’s poor to see a doctor.