Anne Swerlick
June 28, 2021

Medicaid Expansion Would Help Florida’s Essential Workers 

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.

According to a new report by Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, almost half of all adults working in Florida without health insurance are employed in the hospitality, retail, and administrative/support/waste management service industries. They include cashiers, cooks, waiters and waitresses, retail salespersons, and construction workers, all essential jobs during the pandemic.  

Approximately 789,800 uninsured workers, or 33 percent of the state’s uninsured adult population, would gain health insurance with Medicaid expansion. Right now, these essential low-wage workers earn too much to qualify under Florida Medicaid's extremely stringent income criteria- just 31 percent of the poverty level ($6,936 for a three-person family). But they earn too little to be able to buy private insurance.

These are workers caught in the Medicaid coverage gap.

Over 70 percent
are in a family with at least one worker. Those not working are caregiving for other family members, going to school or are too sick to work. 

Workers need Medicaid to stay healthy while they work and during periods of joblessness when they are looking for work. And thousands of workers with disabilities need access to care that supports their ability to keep a job.

Despite generous new financial incentives for expansion in the American Rescue Plan, as well as nearly $200 million annually in savings the state could see even without the new financial incentives, Florida leadership has refused to budge on this issue.

That is why Congress must step up. The next economic recovery package needs to include provisions that would ensure permanent, comprehensive federal coverage to close the gap. It’s time to support essential low-wage workers just as they provided crucial support  throughout the pandemic. 

Where Do Florida’s Uninsured Workers Live?

The map below shows the range of uninsured rates for all working adults across the state of Florida. Hover over the map to view the uninsured rate by county.


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