U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor urges the Florida Legislature to swiftly implement the expanded Medicaid coverage for Floridians and today highlighted the harm to Tampa General Hospital (TGH) and all Tampa Bay area families if the legislature fails to do so. TGH, one of Florida's largest "safety net" hospitals, faces daunting challenges with the loss of funds for uncompensated care unless Medicaid is expanded to cover more Floridians.
"Tampa General provides an important lifeline to families throughout the Tampa Bay area. The sensible course of action is to "pay the bills' under Medicaid and not shift the costs of the uninsured to people who have insurance," Rep. Castor said. "Uncompensated care places a huge strain on our hospitals, doctors, nurses and neighbors who have insurance. In the Tampa Bay area alone, uncompensated care costs account for $200 million a year. In Florida, that number skyrockets to more than $3 billion."
In 2011, TGH provided $41 million in charity care, which includes care for low-income patients as well as uncompensated care. Medicaid expansion will reduce this significantly.
"Not only do hospitals bear the burden of uncompensated care, but the costs are shifted in part to families with insurance through higher copays and premiums," Rep. Castor continued. In 2008, uncompensated care costs increased family health insurance premiums by an estimated $1,017, according to a February 2013 report by Families USA.
"In addition to providing health care access to 274,000 residents in the Tampa Bay area and a likely 1 million in Florida, Medicaid expansion in our state will create jobs and pay the bills for a change rather than shifting charity costs to others. Families and businesses across Florida will be well-served by doctor visits and medical care under the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion."
According to a July 2012 report by the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy (FCFEP), each dollar that the state spends to expand Medicaid will leverage an additional $9.51 in federal funding for Florida. FCFEP also estimates these funds will directly stimulate the economy and create 65,000 private-sector jobs during the first six years.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor serves on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, including the Health Subcommittee, and as a member helped to craft the Affordable Care Act. She has since staunchly championed the benefits that Florida stands to gain from the Affordable Care Act.
"Florida has more to gain than just about any other state and the state's economic prospects are looking brighter with the move toward the broad expansion of health services. The Florida Legislature should move swiftly to implement this vital health care reform and follow the near unanimous advice of health professionals, consumer advocates and economists. After working on the passage of the Affordable Care Act in Congress, including the essential Medicaid provisions, and years of urging our state officials to implement the law, I am hopeful the Florida Legislature and the Tampa Bay delegation will chart the right course to greater economic security and healthier lives."
In February, Florida Gov. Rick Scott reversed his position and announced his support of accepting $5.2 billion in federal funding for Medicaid expansion in Florida. The state legislature must approve its implementation.