The Florida Health Insurance Landscape is Changing

Florida faced a rocky start to universal health care.  Its state lawmakers were not interested in obtaining health care for their citizens if it meant accepting help from the federal government.  It ranked 34 out of the 50 states in terms of the health of its citizens, and had the second highest number of uninsured in the country. 21% of Caucasians, 25% of African Americans, and 43% of Hispanics in the state had no health insurance of any kind.

Despite this, it turned down federal funds to expand Medicaid when the federal government offered the funds, despite the fact that other states such as Florida had accepted this money for their state’s most underprivileged according to  They also moved to keep navigators out of state health care offices, saying that they were members of a ‘business’ and that all businesspeople were barred from entry. This prevented Florida citizens from getting access to federal health care plans.

What do I do now?

Though some may view a lack of health care as a personal choice, when that person shows up in the emergency room with a broken leg and the taxpayer has to pay for it because they haven’t purchased any insurance, this raises healthcare costs and encourages citizens who have no health insurance to hold off on seeing a physician until an emergency has been created.  In many cases, loss of health and life could have been avoided if the uninsured person had visited a doctor earlier, or had access to life-saving medications rather than waited until the last possible moment: what an old doctor I used to know called “one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel!”

Florida’s high percentage of immigrant workers can offer up unique challenges to health care providers.  For many, English is not their first language, and approximately one quarter do not consider themselves confident in the language if they were born in another country.  They may have difficulty finding someone who can help them interpret the health care information, and if they are sufficiently isolated they may not even be aware that the United States has comprehensive health care available.  Language barriers may make it more difficult to get a job where health insurance is available, and that may cause them to need to seek out a health care plan on their own.

The high poverty rate in Florida is also an issue.  Even the best health care coverage available rarely pays one hundred percent of health care costs.  Florida health insurance providers may pay up to eighty percent of health care costs. However, that may still leave prohibitive costs for the individual to pay, and the most poverty-stricken Floridians may end up having to pay for a single healthcare issue over a period of many years, or even be pushed into bankruptcy by a simple event like a tumble down the stairs.

What is the plan to fix this mess?

State and local initiatives are trying to address disparities and improve the health of the patient population.  There are two programs that have been set up in order to address issues with Florida health insurance at

The first is called ‘Closing the Gap’, and is a grant program to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities by promoting disease prevention and healthcare coverage to these underserved populations.

The second is one that has been set up by the Florida Department of Health and is a multi-step plan to improve access to health care.

Both plans have merit, although some might argue that they are very late in coming.  Long before the Affordable Care Act, Floridians were underinsured and underserved. However, these plans may be a step in the right direction.