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Report: Florida's Lack Of Medicaid Expansion Cost 2,800 Lives

A new report says as many as 2,776 older Floridians died prematurely between 2014 and 2017 because of the state’s failure to expand Medicaid, second only to Texas, which lost 2,920 lives.

The report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, based on data analysis by the National Bureau of Economic Research, says Medicaid expansion in 36 states saved the lives of at least 19,200 adults aged 55 to 64 over the four-year period from 2014 to 2017.

In the 14 states – including Florida - that chose not to expand Medicaid, 15,600 older adults between 55 and 64 died prematurely.

RELATED: Report: Florida Could Save $200M A Year With Medicaid Expansion

Anne Swerlick, a health policy analyst and attorney with the Florida Policy Institute, said the data is another stark reminder that policy choices that are being made around health care are having real consequences.

“They can't get Medicare, but they're aging, and they're facing medical crises. And if they're uninsured, they're at high risk of dying prematurely,” Swerlick said.

Sarah Miller is Assistant Professor of business economics at the University of Michigan and co-author of the new report. 

She says they linked information from the American Community Survey on people's income, socioeconomic status, age, and other factors that determine whether or not they would gain Medicaid eligibility through the Affordable Care Act, to mortality records that are held by the Social Security Administration - focusing on older adults who are not yet old enough to qualify for Medicare.

Critics against Medicaid expansion say abysmal reimbursement rates mean there aren’t enough providers to care for the more than 8000,000 Floridians who would gain coverage through expansion.

Miller said the data shows otherwise.

“When people gain Medicaid, their use of care does go up. It might not be the case that every provider will see them, but when they get Medicaid, they are able to find providers that will see them,” Miller said.

“And if they weren't able to, then we would have expected sort of no effect in this mortality result.”

Analysts with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the data “should also finally put to rest claims that Medicaid doesn’t provide quality coverage, such as Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma’s suggestion that Medicaid expansion gave low-income adults “a[n insurance] card without care.’”

Bills have been filed in the Florida House and Senate again this year that would expand Medicaid coverage to people under 65 with income equal to or below 138 percent of federal poverty level, but are not expected to be heard during the next legislative session.

The committee Florida Decides Healthcare had originally planned to try to take a measure to voters next year that would amend Florida law to expand Medicaid eligibility, but they’ve pushed it backto 2022.

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Daylina Miller, multimedia reporter for Health News Florida, was hired to help further expand health coverage statewide.