July 2, 2020

Florida Has Yet to Accept 100% Federal Funding to Cover the Costs of COVID-19 Testing for the Uninsured

This post was last updated on December 8, 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.

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.

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