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Massive Medicaid Cuts Will Impact All Floridians

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2008-04-11 09:07

The Florida Legislature's plans to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicaid programs for the elderly, disabled and poor will put lives at risk and will negatively impact all Floridians, the leaders of Florida's safety net hospitals warned today.

Besides jeopardizing the health of Florida's most vulnerable citizens, the proposed cuts in state Medicaid spending will also wastefully forfeit as much as $280 million in federal matching funds and will lead to higher health care costs for all Floridians, the hospital leaders said.

As part of their effort to address the state's economic downturn, state legislators want to slash as much as $1.2 billion in crucial health and human services programs for the elderly, disabled, foster children and the poor. That includes cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicaid programs that Florida's neediest citizens depend on to survive.

"It's time for all Floridians to ask themselves: Is this really the way you want your state to treat the most vulnerable people in your community?" said Tony Carvalho, President of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. "And do you really think these drastic cuts won't impact you? The truth is, all Floridians will feel the effects of these huge Medicaid cuts."

By eliminating or restricting crucial Medicaid programs, legislators may be able to claim that they avoided raising taxes, tapping into trust funds, or using the state's "rainy day" reserves to ease the state budget shortfall, hospital leaders said. But in reality, all Floridians will bear the brunt of the Legislature's cost shift.

Local communities will be forced to raise local taxes for indigent care. More sick people will wind up in already overcrowded emergency rooms, forcing hospitals to provide even more free care, and driving up health costs for everyone else. Health premiums will rise, straining businesses and increasing the ranks of the uninsured in Florida -- where already, one in every four residents under 65 lacks coverage.

"Ironically, while the rest of the United States is debating ways to ensure that all Americans have health coverage, our Florida Legislature is heading in the opposite direction, reducing health coverage for our neediest citizens and increasing the uncompensated care in our health system," Carvalho said.

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