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Monday, Jul 28, 2014
Commentary

Nixing Medicaid expansion is lost economic opportunity

Published:

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce continues to support the reduction of red tape burdens that exist on Florida businesses while working to ensure government works as efficiently as possible, recognizing the need for Florida to provide solutions to health care that are specific to our state.

As a part of our 2013 Legislative Agenda, we supported a Florida-specific solution to health care reform as it relates to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the prevention of additional Medicaid cuts. At our August board meeting, the chamber also adopted a stance to support a Medicaid expansion plan that will cover an additional 1 million Floridians. It is important that the Florida Legislature accept the federal dollars from the expansion because the failure to do so is a failure to create economic opportunity for our state.

The University of Florida, Food & Resource Economics Department estimates that accepting the federal funding has the potential to create more than 121,000 jobs, with Hillsborough County seeing 7,377 jobs. These are not just health-care jobs; opportunities would open up in the education, transportation and real estate industries as well. Local governments also would benefit, with more than $540 million a year going to their revenue streams.

Uncompensated care is another burden on Florida hospitals, as Florida has the second-highest rate of uninsured residents younger than age 65. Treating Floridians without coverage costs close to $3 billion, which in turn causes an increase to business health insurance premiums of approximately 8 percent.

Extending health care to 1 million working Floridians would go a long way toward stemming this tide. Our hospitals are major economic engines in our community, and accepting federal funding is an opportunity for us to alleviate this financial burden on them, possibly freeing up funds for increased research.

By extending health-care coverage in our state, we ultimately save our state billions of dollars in annual health-care costs, which will go a long way toward helping our small and large businesses and helping to maintain Florida’s standing as a great place to do business. Without accepting federal funds, we leave companies and individuals on the hook for unreimbursed health-care costs.

For us, this issue isn’t about politics. Often, we get so mired in the political ramifications of decisions that we fail to consider the very real economic consequences. It is in our best interest to expand Medicare coverage in our state, and the longer we wait to come up with a viable solution the more the businesses and people of our great state will be impacted. This is one of the most dire issues facing our state. The time to deal with it is now.

Bob Rohrlack is president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

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