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Jackson Employees Head To Tally To Fight For Medicaid Expansion

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - The Florida Legislature's opposition to anything related to the Affordable Care Act is well documented, but a group of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers from South Florida will still try to change that attitude.

The South Florida group is headed to Tallahassee for the second year in a row to lobby legislators for access to affordable healthcare for patients who have fallen through the cracks.

"Year after year, our patients are suffering," said Denise Glass, a nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital. "They continue to not be covered even though the Affordable Care Act is up and running."

The Affordable Care Act is up and running, but due to the Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of the Medicaid provision in the ACA, there's a doughnut hole of coverage.

The Supreme Court left it up to individual states whether they wanted to increase Medicaid rolls, instead of letting the federal government order it.

Not surprisingly, many states run by GOP super-majorities like Florida took the opportunity to reject tens of billions of dollars from the federal government to help expand Medicaid. The federal government promised to pay for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years and then never less than 90 percent in the future.

Florida said no and rejected a total of $51 billion in aid from the Affordable Care Act. The people who would have been covered by the Medicaid expansion are too poor for subsidies and are now caught up in the doughnut hole that states that rejected the expansion helped create.

"Basically for the working poor, those who are not in poverty, but don't make enough money to actually healthcare," Martha Baker of the SEIU said of the patients being left out by the states.

Baker said that overall, the Medicaid expansion would help 1.2 million Floridians who are currently uninsured.

Glass said that she's seen the impacts of the lack of expansion in her job at the surgical intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She said one of her heart transplant patients died because he couldn't afford medication.

"If that money would have been available in the state of Florida to cover patients like that, those three kids who are now without their father, he would have been here; so that's what we're fighting for," Glass said.

The Medicaid expansion would have also helped Jackson Memorial overall. Jackson would get an estimated $35 million each year for the next decade with the Medicaid expansion. That amount would fully cover the approximately 5,000 admissions of uninsured patients coming through the Jackson emergency room.

Health care workers said focusing on preventative care would save lives.

"It's wrong," said JMH enrollment employee Hiram Ruberte. "The medical conditions just worsen by them having to wait in the ER to see a doctor. Instead of getting their primaries to see a physician, they just wait until they get sicker and end up in the ER."

But even with the outcry from public hospitals and health employees, the pleas are falling on deaf ears in Tallahassee.

A plan for Medicaid expansion has been introduced in both chambers of the Legislature, but the GOP leaders have not scheduled a hearing for either bill.


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