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Miami Leaders Urge Lawmakers To Expand Medicaid

By: Lisann Ramos

Harry Melo is a 25-year-old grad student from New York who came to Miami two months ago for school. In New York he was able to sign up for Medicaid.

He was surprised to find out that in Florida there’s a “coverage gap” where uninsured people who can’t afford health care insurance also don’t qualify for Obamacare. Melo is now in that gap.

“Shouldn’t my concern as a student be studying and receiving A’s," Melo said, "rather than what to do or where to go and how much this would cost me as an uninsured adult."

Melo joined Mayor TomásRegalado and other healthcare advocates at Miami City Hall Monday morning to express their desires to the legislature, currently in session.

With Medicaid expansion, the state would choose to accept federal funds for health care. Supporters say that the money could fund hospitals, create more health care jobs and save taxpayers money that would otherwise be used to treat the uninsured.

Julio Fuentes is the president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He believes that a Medicaid expansion is financially sound.

“From a business perspective, this is absolutely a no brainer," Fuentes said. "From a moral perspective, it’s imperative."

Last week a bill was introduced in the Senate that would be an alternative to Medicaid expansion. The bill would still allow the state to receive the federal funds. But instead of Medicaid, consumers would receive vouchers to purchase private insurance.

Although this is a step in the direction of Medicaid expansion, Regalado urged Florida Legislators to take further action.

“This bill in the Senate does something, but it doesn’t do everything,” said Regalado. “For Miami it’s important because there are thousands of people here that do not have health coverage and that will be a brunt for the city. These are our residents so we have to take care of them.”

This is an issue that continues to divide the legislation. The federal funds would fully cover the expansion through 2016.

Those against Medicaid say that the program is flawed and shouldn’t be expanded. They also don’t want the state to be left funding the program once the federal money is reduced.


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