December 7, 2017

Majority of Children in Rural Towns and Communities in Florida Rely on Medicaid, According to New Report

In Florida, 57 percent of children in non-metro areas receive coverage through Medicaid, compared to 44 percent in urban/Metro regions

LAKE MARY, FL – The Florida Policy Institute (FPI) today joined the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF) in announcing a new report, authored by the CCF and the Rural Health Research Project of the University of North Carolina, which shows that a larger share of children in small towns and rural areas of the Sunshine State rely on Medicaid to provide access to health care than those living in urban areas.

The report, Medicaid in Small Town America: A Lifeline for Children, Families and Communities, finds that 57 percent of children living in small towns and rural areas of Florida receive coverage through Medicaid, compared to 44 percent in urban areas. For adults, the figures are 17 percent in non-metro areas and 11 percent in metro regions.

“When Florida children and families have health insurance coverage, the whole state benefits,” said Joseph F. Pennisi, executive director of FPI. “Providing greater access to care can equate to fewer visits to emergency rooms, less uncompensated care and more people getting—and staying—healthy.  I think that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can agree on the vital role that Medicaid plays in achieving these goals.”

“Medicaid provides critical access to life-saving treatment and protection from rising health care costs to many children and families living in small towns and rural America,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. “Cuts to Medicaid and other health care programs would take those protections away from many and risk financial ruin, denial of health care, or both.”

It’s important to note that in Florida, the majority of children covered through Medicaid are in urban/metro counties. Miami-Dade had the largest number of children beneficiaries (293,300) in 2014-15. However, there are notable differences between non-metro counties and neighboring urban/metro counties in terms of the share of children covered through Medicaid:

  • DeSoto County (67 percent) and Hardee County (68 percent) vs. Sarasota County (36 percent) and Manatee County (43 percent)
  • Bradford County (54 percent), Putnam County (59 percent), Levy County (57 percent), Union County (55 percent) and Columbia County (54 percent) vs. Alachua County (33 percent)
  • Glades County (63 percent) and Hendry County (61 percent) vs. Palm Beach County (41 percent)

Statewide, there are 2 million children who rely on Medicaid as their lifeline for access to health care services. Cutting funding to Medicaid and changing its financing structure into a per capita cap or block grant would hit children the hardest, damaging their overall well-being and future quality of life as adults.

Florida ranked 6th in the nation for reduction in its percentage of uninsured children living in small towns and rural areas from 2008-09 to 2014-15. During that period, the rate dropped from 16 percent to 9 percent. At the same time, the share of children in small towns and rural communities covered by Medicaid grew from 43 percent to 57 percent.

The state saw an improvement in the uninsured rate for adults in small towns and rural areas as well, which dropped from 40 to 30 percent between 2008-09 and 2014-15. Adults covered by Medicaid increased from 10 to 17 percent during the same period.

Florida has yet to expand Medicaid, which would benefit the more than 500,000 people stuck in the “coverage gap,” those that earn too much to qualify for health care coverage through Medicaid, but don’t earn enough to qualify for subsidies in the marketplace.

“It’s important that we continue to build on the gains made under the Affordable Care Act. There is still a lot of work to do considering the high number of uninsured residents in the state,” added Pennisi.

The report primarily relies on data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (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.

The Center for Children & Families (CCF), part of the Health Policy Institute at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, is an independent, nonpartisan policy and research center with a mission to expand and improve high-quality, affordable health coverage. Founded in 2005, CCF is devoted to improving the health of America’s children and families, particularly those with low and moderate incomes.

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