September 14, 2018

Florida's Failed Priorities: Roughly 2.86 Million Floridians are Uninsured; 2.89 Million Live Below the Poverty Level

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.

Widespread prosperity is out of reach for too many families

LAKE MARY, FL – Florida’s share of residents living below the federal poverty level — $25,094 for a family of four — and its rate of residents without health insurance coverage remain worse than the U.S. average, according to newly released data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey (ACS).Communities of color, who face significant barriers like limited access to employment because of discriminatory hiring practices, are subsequently more likely to struggle economically and continue to face higher rates of poverty than white residents.

State lawmakers could improve the quality of life for Florida residents and help reduce economic inequity by:

  • Expanding Medicaid to 400,000 residents who are struggling to make ends meet;
  • Investing in quality schools, affordable housing, modernized roads and bridges and 21st century workforce training programs;
  • Closing special interest tax loopholes and reinvesting that revenue into other areas of the budget; and
  • Enacting comprehensive criminal justice reform.

Florida’s share of residents without health care coverage has decreased significantly since 2013, the year before major coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect. The rates dropped from 20 percent to 12.9 percent. Although there are 1.18 million fewer uninsured than there were in 2013, Florida’s rate of uninsured residents remains worse than the U.S. average, which is 8.7 percent.

New data show an uptick in the number of uninsured Floridians, one of the largest increases in the country. Recent studies conducted by Gallup and the Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Tracking Survey found that the rise in the number of uninsured residents is likely linked to federal legislative and administrative efforts to weaken the ACA, actions which are leaving consumers confused and uncertain about the ACA’s future.

Roughly 2.86 million Sunshine State residents do not have health insurance coverage.

There were small year-to-year improvements in poverty and incomes, but Florida has yet to recover from the impacts of the last recession. The share of Floridians living below the poverty threshold decreased from 14.7 percent in 2016 to 14 percent in 2017. When compared to pre-recession levels, however, Florida’s poverty rate has increased by 1.9 percentage points.

Florida’s rate of child poverty improved slightly between 2016 and 2017, from 20.7 percent to 20 percent. Still, there was a greater share of children living in poverty in 2017 (20 percent) than there was a decade ago (16.6 percent). There were about 168,000 more children living in poverty in 2017 than there were in 2007.

“Year after year, the Census data show that Florida is not doing enough to remove economic barriers that endanger the livelihood of families in our state,” said Joseph F. Pennisi, executive director of the Florida Policy Institute. “There are commonsense policy solutions, like expanding Medicaid to people that earn too much to qualify under Florida’s extremely low threshold but too little to benefit from marketplace subsidies, that will help increase the number of residents with health coverage and foster economic growth.”

The ACS is a nationwide survey that collects and produces information each year on social, economic, housing and demographic characteristics about the nation’s population. The Census Bureau, according to its website, contacts 3.5 million households every year to participate in the ACS.

The Florida Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting widespread prosperity through timely, thoughtful and objective analysis of state policy issues affecting economic opportunity.

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