Health care advocates call on Congress to close coverage gap, say abortion ruling adds urgency

Congress convened this week for the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and health care advocates are urging lawmakers to spend time closing the insurance coverage gap.

A coalition of groups including the Florida Policy Institute, Florida Voices for Health and MomsRising hosted a webinar on Tuesday to discuss the issue, which they say is especially important to address now, as states that have not expanded Medicaid are more likely to restrict access to reproductive health care.

About 425,000 Floridians live in the coverage gap, which means they earn too much to qualify for the state’s Medicaid program, but not enough to get premium tax credits in the law market. on affordable care.

Many of those residents are people of color, who Rep. Angie Nixon says [D-Jacksonville] stressed are more likely to have complications during pregnancy.

“Losing access to legal abortions will likely mean higher maternity and death rates, increased health disparities, and non-expanding states like Florida are restricting legal abortions the most.” , Nixon said.

It is essential that people have access to health care, advocates said, so that those who do not want children can effectively prevent pregnancy and those who do can give birth safely.

Pregnant women can access Medicaid in Florida more easily than other low-income adults, and the state is one of many that decided this year to expand postpartum coverage by a full year instead. of 60 days.

But postpartum Medicaid coverage isn’t enough, argued Holly Bullard, director of strategy and development at the Florida Policy Institute.

“People in the coverage gap often lack preconception and early prenatal care because Medicaid pregnancy coverage only kicks in when people know they’re pregnant and apply for Medicaid,” she explained. “Closing the Medicaid coverage gap in this upcoming reconciliation package would expand access to full coverage for women at a critical time.”

Thousands of others could also benefit from closing the coverage gap, including Seminole County resident Allison Holmes. She cares full time for her son who has a disability and has struggled to access health care for years.

Holmes said she wanted Florida to expand Medicaid like 38 other states across the country have done, but leaders have repeatedly refused.

“In Florida, you’re on your own, and if there’s a way out of this, I haven’t found it,” she said before urging Congress to act.

Policy experts say one possible solution would be to expand ACA grant eligibility for residents living in non-expanding states.

It’s unclear whether Congress will include policy changes in its next tentative spending package, which comes after the Build Back Better Act passed in the House last year but died in the Senate.

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