“It really is a dire situation,” say advocates for state’s uninsured


As Florida legislators try to iron out their differences over the state’s major budget items, advocates for Florida’s nearly 1 million uninsured are speaking out about Friday’s House vote rejecting  the Senate’s Medicaide expansion compromise.

“It really is kind of a dire situation,” said Sarah Sullivan, director of Florida Coastal School of Law’s Disability and Public Benefits Clinic. The clinic works with the disabled and their caregivers who have trouble accessing health care benefits. Sullivan spoke during an appearance on WJCT’s First Coast Connect.

“We help the uninsured and underinsured. We’re problem-solvers, and try to refer people to safety net services,” she said.

“And the feedback we’re getting from people after this vote is the fear that now, the uninsured will go to the emergency room even more. That means a rise in costs; that means a rise in premiums for the insured, so it’s going to cost one way or another.”

FCSL law student Jenny Rose is employed but uninsured, and also studying for the bar exam. Rose said she and her family are among the 900,000 Floridians who fall into the so-called “doughnut hole” of coverage: They cannot afford health insurance but are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

‘I was very disappointed,” she said. “I have a large family. My 6-year-old has asthma, and my husband suffers from congestive heart failure, so this affects us in a very bad way.”

“Right now we call and negotiate with our doctor. We pay out-of-pocket for actual office visits. We also have to cover for meds and if we need blood work that’s a big problem too. Those are all separate bills that we cannot afford.”

Because the way forward for health care coverage remains in flux, state House lawmakers such as Rep. Paul Renner of Palm Coast say they’re concerned about the long-term effects Medicaid expansion might have on the state budget.

“It’s really not a free proposition for us to expand coverage here,” Renner told The Florida Times-Union. “We’re going to have to give up things that are very important, like education.”

Gov. Rick Scott, who changed his mind several times about the issue of Medicaid expansion, has also expressed concern about the expense, estimating it would cost the state $5 billion over the next decade.

Rose says she understands the concerns but hopes legislators hear her point of view, too.

“I just hope that people understand that it’s not a Republican or Democratic problem, it’s a people problem. And we all should be concerned about the health of our fellow humans.”

Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected].


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