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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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Obamacare will save lives, make Florida healthier

Florida ranks third in the nation for numbers of medically uninsured. Some 4 million, or 25 percent, lack coverage under the age of 65. It is suggested that 2,300 Florida citizens will die from lack of health coverage this year — that is more than six per day. In addition to the death toll are the tens of thousands of Florida residents who will face disability and crisis care due to their lack of medications. Further, there are 2 million needy Florida children. Approximately 1.4 million are covered by Medicaid/Children's Health Insurance Program, leaving nearly 30 percent of disadvantaged children without health insurance. But barriers to the CHIP/Medicaid application process leave 591,000 Florida children without health coverage. And Florida has lost millions of federal dollars and denied crucial coverage due to the complexity of the CHIP/Medicaid application.
Communities face risk due to those who avoid primary care because of cost and lack of coverage. Should they suffer untreated communicable diseases, they may spread illness to others. We continue to witness increasing tuberculosis infection due to Florida's uninsured homeless. Untreated sexually transmitted diseases can race through communities along with seasonal illness and other health threats. All citizens are at risk. These individuals may receive unpaid care through the emergency room. The insured foot the bill through higher insurance premiums. Emergency room treatment is the most expensive care. It makes sense to expand Medicaid. Obamacare will do this. The cost to the state is zero the first two years and will never exceed 10 percent of Medicaid costs. Expanded Medicaid allows most uninsured people to be covered. They can then receive preventive care, have a medical home and avoid unnecessary emergency room visits. All residents benefit from coverage, and that argues to the importance of universal health care. The United States, especially Florida, can claim no bragging rights for the quality of health care when 25 percent of those under 65 have no insurance. Obamacare will help. The governor should stop playing politics and accept the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Lives will be saved, and Florida will be a healthier place.

Dr. Marc J. Yacht is a former Pasco County Health Department director and a past president of the Florida Public Health Association and Florida Association of County Health Officers, among other affiliations. He lives in Hudson.
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