It is puzzling why Florida leadership is once again opting to leave federal dollars on the table. This time, lawmakers are turning down 100 percent federal Medicaid funding for COVID-19 testing for the uninsured. The federal testing funds have been authorized since mid-March and they will continue to be available through the end of the public health emergency. Twenty-one states have already opted in.
This is truly low hanging fruit for Florida to provide help to 2.7 million uninsured Floridians — nearly 13 percent of the state population.
Currently, uninsured Floridians may opt to skip testing out of fear of having to pay out-of-pocket costs. Experts warn that barriers to testing could hinder containment of the virus and have grave public health consequences if a large share of the population is left out.
While there may be some Florida resources that are providing free testing, it's a patchwork that widely varies around the state and is not well-publicized. Moreover, the capacity of these state resources to meet the need is limited.
In contrast, federal Medicaid dollars would ensure funding for every uninsured Floridian who needs to access testing and prevent further medical debt. This would undoubtedly encourage more uninsured people to get tested.
And of course, these new federal dollars would supplant state dollars and help Florida’s budget. Unfortunately, turning down federal dollars in this state seems to be a recurring theme driven by impractical ideology rather than common sense.
This decision, especially in the middle of a pandemic, puts all Floridians in harm's way.