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Medicaid expansion shows promise in southern states

Arkansas and Kentucky embrace federal funds and reap returns; Florida remains unmoved

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Making Medicaid happen

One of this election cycle’s key issues – or, perhaps, what should have been one of this election cycle’s key issues – was the dogged stubbornness exhibited by Florida Republicans when faced with the option of letting poor people live or die. The refusal of the Legislature, and ultimately Gov. Rick Scott, to expand the Medicaid program with a federal handout of $55 billion over 10 years is legendarily callous. Though there was some discussion of a compromise so that Republicans wouldn’t feel like they had lost their dignity – remember the “Negron plan” that would have basically done the same thing as expansion, only without looking like expansion? – in Florida, that never came to pass. As a result, people have died unnecessarily. (Have we waved this “S.O.S.” flag enough yet?)

At any rate, a story published by Health News Florida (and Georgia Health News) last week highlighted the successes of Medicaid expansion in two other Southern states that weren’t as afraid of looking like Obamacrats: Kentucky and Arkansas. Chandler Hospital at the University of Kentucky reports that the number of uninsured patients bothering its emergency room has declined from 9 percent to 2.5 percent, while outpatient services are simultaneously growing and inpatient service declining.

Whereas the hospital was previously getting just 10 cents on the dollar from Medicaid in its service to the poor, now it is getting 40 cents. “It means we are having very strong bottom lines in the hospital,” Dr. Michael Karpf told the news organization. Kentucky’s expansion has also added 11,000 jobs under the Affordable Care Act.

Arkansas, which has a Democratic governor (like us, maybe?), went for something akin to the “Negron plan,” filtering federal funds through a “private option.” Currently, among the state’s 250,000 uninsured low-income residents, 85 percent are now hooked up with health insurance via fake Medicaid; uninsured emergency room visits fell by 24 percent.

In Florida, we wait. And people die.

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