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SunSentinel: Katie Edwards: Extend health care coverage using federal funds

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

I look at everything from a business perspective. When I sponsor a bill or am deciding how to vote on a bill, I examine the cost-benefit analysis. What will this do for Florida and the people in my district? There has to be a net gain for our state. And, that is exactly how I have approached the issue of extending health care coverage with available federal funding.

For me, it’s not an issue of standing with my party and it shouldn’t be for anyone else who represents the citizens of this wonderful state we call home. Across the nation, elected officials from both parties are advancing proposals that utilize federal funding to ensure more people have access to health care. Businesses and business-driven coalitions, such as A Healthy Florida Works, are banding together to voice their support.

Florida has much to gain by extending health care coverage.

First and foremost, approximately one million more Floridians and more than 113,000 Broward residents would have access to preventative care and the care they need to manage chronic conditions. Three out of four of these people are hardworking Floridians who need to stay healthy so they can do their jobs and make ends meet.

Our state’s businesses need for us to find a way to extend health care coverage. If you’re paying for health insurance, your premiums are helping to cover the billions in uncompensated care provided to the uninsured each year. This hits businesses that offer health benefits especially hard.

The health insurance premiums businesses pay for their employees go up 8 percent every year to cover unpaid care. Covering more people will help businesses rein in these costs. Then, owners can put more money into their businesses helping them grow and create jobs.

Extending health care coverage with federal dollars is a good deal for the state, too. If Florida had extended coverage starting in 2013, the state could have saved $2.5 billion in general revenue over 10 years. Local governments will add millions in revenue each year and an additional 121,000 jobs will be created statewide.

With no cost to the state until 2016, and then no more than 10 percent of the cost from thereon out, the benefits of extending coverage far outweigh the cost. Other states are using the available federal funding to create health care coverage programs that work for them. Florida should take advantage of this opportunity and do the same.

Katie Edwards is a Democratic Florida state representative from Plantation.

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