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Health care advocates warn that not expanding Medicaid will hurt business

by John Kennedy | June 19th, 2013

Florida’s economy will slump if the state Legislature fails to embrace some version of Medicaid expansion, advocates and business analysts warned Wednesday.

The League of Women Voters in Florida and the Florida Health Care Coalition added to a rising wave of summertime drumbeating by supporters of the Affordable Care Act, warning that not extending health coverage to poor Floridians will darken the state’s business climate.

“We’re really working hard to educate everyone that Medicaid is good for individuals, for employers…good for the economy and good for the state budget,” said Karen Van Caulil, president of the Florida Health Care Coalition.

State legislators from Broward and Palm Beach counties have scheduled town hall sessions in coming weeks on health care and the effort to expand Medicaid coverage.

Also, an outreach campaign begins stumping this coming weekend in low-income neighborhoods in Miami and Orlando, as part of the campaign to promote the president’s health care law.

The Legislature ended the 2013 session last month failing to reach agreement on expanding Medicaid. But advocates have been clamoring for lawmakers to revisit the issue, possibly in a special session this fall.  But House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, however, has said nothing has changed to ease his chamber’s opposition to a big expansion.

The business card has been played by supporters before. But Wednesday in a conference call with reporters, advocates again warned that by refusing federal dollars for care, lawmakers were missing an opportunity to jolt the state’s economy.

Also, Bill Kramer, a director at the Pacific Business Group on Health, said a “cost shift” already present in Florida will expand as those with insurance have to contribute to covering a large portion of the population without coverage.

Deirdre Macnab, league president, likened it to “quicksand” for Florida businesses.

“This is something the state simply cannot afford as we begin to rebound from recession,” Macnab said.

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