Anne Swerlick
April 6, 2020

Expanding Medicaid Would Reduce Disparities in Access to Life-Saving Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Communities of Color

This post was last updated on September 29, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.


Communities of color are experiencing higher rates of drug overdose deaths and unmet treatment needs for substance use disorder (SUD). A disproportionate number of individuals in these communities are uninsured. Consequently, they face significant barriers accessing much-needed prevention, treatment, and recovery services.

More than half of the 391,000 Floridians in the Medicaid “coverage gap” are people of color. Individuals in the coverage gap are not eligible for Medicaid under the state's very restrictive income criteria, but they are too poor to qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance on the federal marketplace.

By gaining health insurance coverage through Medicaid expansion, Floridians of color with low income would have greater access to SUD treatment, as well as concurrent care for related physical and mental health disorders.

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