Gov. Ron DeSantis is deflecting questions about the more than 2.5 million residents who do not have health insurance.
During the GOP Primary debate on Wednesday, DeSantis was asked by Fox Business’ Stuart Varney about why the state has a higher uninsured rate than the nation overall. At first, DeSantis blamed inflation and economic policies enacted under President Joe Biden. He then said that health care interests such as pharmaceutical companies were “putting patients at the back of the bus.”
When Varney pressed again, DeSantis said Florida was a “dynamic” and growing state, but then defended the state’s existing safety net programs as helping keep Florida’s overall unemployment rate down.
“We also don’t have a lot of welfare benefits in Florida,” DeSantis said. “We basically say this is a field of dreams. You can do well in this state but we’re not going to be like California and have a massive number of people on government programs without work requirements.”
Florida currently has more than 5 million people on Medicaid, the state-federal funded safety net health care program. But Republicans in the Florida Legislature along with DeSantis and former Gov. Rick Scott have resisted expanding Medicaid to the extent allowed under Obamacare.
Medicaid expansion hasn’t been seriously considered during DeSantis’ five years in office. Democrats have consistently criticized Florida Republicans for opposing Medicaid expansion.
KFF Health News in late 2022 reported that roughly 10% of Americans did not have health insurance compared to 15% for Florida.
During his time in office, DeSantis has focused on health care issues, such as his opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns, vaccine mandates and drug prices. He has not really proposed any significant changes to government programs such as Medicaid, although his administration has been criticized for its efforts to trim Medicaid rolls after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.