TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a recent report released on Thursday, it was revealed that Florida saw some improvement in the number of people with health insurance in 2022, although the state continued to lag behind most of the country. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 11.2 percent of Floridians were uninsured last year, down from 12.1 percent in 2021. This data includes individuals covered by employer-based plans, private insurance, and government programs like Medicaid and Medicare.
Unfortunately, Florida still ranked among the states with the highest uninsured rates in 2022, surpassed only by Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming. Texas had the highest rate at 16.6 percent, while the national average stood at 8 percent, down from 8.6 percent in the previous year. According to the report, the southern states had some of the highest uninsured rates, while the northeastern states had some of the lowest rates. Nine out of the fifteen states above the national average were located in the South, with rates ranging from 8.8 percent to 16.6 percent.
The release of this report came at a time when top Florida lawmakers, House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, have indicated that health care issues will be a priority in the upcoming 2024 legislative session, set to begin in January. House Speaker Renner recently formed the House Select Committee on Health Innovation, emphasizing its role in addressing accessibility and affordability concerns in the health care system. Senate President Passidomo has also been proactive in engaging with representatives from hospitals and nursing homes to explore potential solutions, particularly related to increasing the number of health care providers to meet the growing population’s needs.
Despite the attention on health care in the legislative session, it remains uncertain whether proposed legislation will effectively address the issue of uninsured individuals. Democrats have consistently advocated for expanding Medicaid eligibility, an idea that has been rejected by Republicans. Senate President Passidomo reiterated her opposition to such an expansion during a podcast appearance. The census report highlighted that states that expanded Medicaid eligibility had a significantly lower uninsured rate of 6.3 percent in 2022, compared to the 11.8 percent rate in states that did not expand eligibility. Florida is among the twelve states that have not expanded eligibility, thus excluding many individuals who would not meet previous qualification criteria from obtaining coverage.
Interestingly, the report also revealed that Florida’s improved uninsured rate in 2022 was partially driven by an increase in people obtaining “direct purchase” private coverage. The percentage of insured Floridians with such coverage rose from 18.4 percent in 2021 to 18.8 percent in 2022. This type of coverage can be obtained directly from insurance providers or through the federal health insurance marketplace established under the Affordable Care Act. In fact, earlier data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ranked Florida as having the highest number of individuals purchasing coverage through the federal marketplace.
While Florida made some progress in reducing its uninsured rate, there are still substantial challenges ahead. The state experienced a decline in the number of Medicaid beneficiaries after the public-health emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic concluded, allowing states to remove individuals from Medicaid who no longer met income-eligibility requirements. Florida witnessed a decrease of over 400,000 Medicaid beneficiaries between April and July, a development not captured in the census report.
In conclusion, the health insurance rates in Florida showed some improvement in 2022, but the state continues to face significant challenges in reducing the number of uninsured individuals. The upcoming legislative session will focus on health care issues, but the extent to which proposed measures will effectively address the problem remains uncertain. It is crucial for policymakers to consider expanding Medicaid eligibility to bridge the health coverage gap and ensure more Floridians have access to affordable health care options.