Anne Swerlick
April 24, 2020

Uninsured During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Urgent Need to Build on Florida's Medicaid Program

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.

Executive Summary

Thousands of Floridians have been infected with the COVID-19 virus and the numbers continue to rise.  Nearly half of the state's adults are at higher risk of serious illness if infected.  More so now than ever, there is an urgent need to increase access to health care services for all Floridians, including access to COVID-19 testing and treatment.

Yet, even before the pandemic and ensuing massive job losses, 2.7 million Floridians were uninsured. Research shows that under normal circumstances the uninsured have much greater challenges accessing care. These disparities are exacerbated during a health crisis.

Scaling up the Florida Medicaid program is the most efficient and economical way to meet the needs of the uninsured, particularly in this time of crisis. If the state opted to expand its Medicaid program to cover adults (19-64) with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, more than 800,000 Floridians would gain coverage. In addition, program administrative changes are needed to make it easier for people to enroll and keep coverage.  Ensuring health care access for all Floridians will save lives and is vital to protecting the overall public health.

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