Challenges ahead for Fla. under Affordable Care Act

Challenges ahead for Fla. under Affordable Care Act

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Despite the push to get Floridians to sign up for health insurance and the hundreds of thousands who enrolled, Florida will have a large number of uninsured residents in 2014.

That means the state will still have to deal with the challenges of cost and health care that it had before the Affordable Care Act.

“Florida still has the second highest rate of uninsurance in the country and I think it’s bad for those individuals, it’s bad for their families and it’s bad for the community,” said Prof. John Petrila, chair of the department of health policy at the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida.

Uninsured patients that land in an emergency room can end up with hefty bills they can’t pay. Last year, Tampa General Hospital provided 76 million in “free care” for which it won’t be reimbursed, said TGH spokesman John Dunn.

It’s not a simple formula, but “we all share in health care costs,” Dunn said. A big part of the issue is preventative care.

“You can’t treat your illnesses on the front end, we treat them on the back end and that’s where a lot of the high cost of health care is,” Dunn said.

But some expensive trips to the emergency room are hard to see coming.

Ryan Rudolph ended up in the hospital without insurance several years ago, after being hit by a car while taking out some trash helping a neighbor move.

Rudolph says he say the truck coming but blacked out after that, ending up in a ditch.

“I remember the pain in the ambulance – just unbearable,” he said.

Rudolph says he ended up with about $30,000 in medical bills. After getting some help from a state victim’s assistance program, he estimates he still owes about $9,000. The debt has affected his credit, and prevented him from getting credit cards or a car (he rides a scooter).

Rudolph, who still has a metal rod in his leg, does have insurance now, though. A new job came with health benefits.

“It’s a relief, a huge relief,” he said.

At the launch the health insurance marketplace, Florida had 3.5 million uninsured – or one out of every four residents. The most recent state breakdown numbers from Health and Human Services came in March, showing 442,000 had signed up by the beginning of March.

It’s unclear how many of those individuals had insurance before but switched to cheaper or different plans.

In Hillsborough County, consumers will continue paying a half-cent sales tax that goes in part to help pay for health care for the uninsured. That sales tax is not expected to be affected by the Affordable Care Act, because the residents served by the health care program are low-income residents who are generally not eligible for subsidies to help buy health insurance.

Florida, so far, has also not taken federal funds to expand Medicaid, which would reduce the number of uninsured.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


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