A report released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association and the health care consumer group Families USA shows that Medicaid plays a vital role in providing health care to Floridians with chronic illnesses.

The report, “Medicaid’s Impact in Florida” (.pdf), states:

Tens of thousands of Floridians with serious health care needs rely on Medicaid for their health coverage. There are several reasons why many of these Floridians have Medicaid coverage, which include the nature of the Medicaid program and some of the ways people become eligible for it. Medicaid is limited to low-income individuals. And people with low incomes are more likely to have poorer health, even when educational levels and health behaviors are taken into account.

Ron Pollack, executive director and Vice president of Families USA, spoke during a Tuesday conference call about how Mediciad plays a vital role for people with chronic diseases because Congress is “considering budget changes in order to deal with the national debt and we are very concerned that Medicaid program might be cut as part of that process.”

“We want  make sure that members of Congress and the public understand how important Medicaid is as a lifeline for people who have major illnesses,” Pollack said.

Pollack said the report shows that in Florida 52,000 people who live with cancer depend on Medicaid for their lifeline, and there are more than 208,000 Floridians who live with diabetes and more than 330,000 with chronic lung diseases on Medicaid. Of these, almost 149,000 are children. He also said there are more than 540,000 Floridians who live with either heart disease or stroke who depend on Medicaid for their health coverage.

Pollack explained that the average cost for the hospitalization of a heart attack is almost $63,000, “and that means that anybody who does not have health care coverage and has a heart attack is likely to experience significant economic hardship, and often this leads to bankruptcy.”

According to the report, “for every dollar Florida puts into its Medicaid program, the federal government puts in $1.24. If Florida’s Medicaid expenditures go up or down, the federal share does as well.”

Paula Jameson, a American Diabetes Association’s National Advocacy Committee, said that her organization will “continue to fight to prevent states from reducing or eliminating diabetes coverage in state-regulated or publicly funded insurance.”

“We want to keep people healthy instead of having taxpayer dollars paying for costly amputation and dialysis rather than the tools to prevent such tragedies,” Jameson said.

Brenda Olsen, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Florida, said that Medicaid coverage is helping more than 330,000 Floridians manage the day-to-day care of their chronic lung diseases. She said Medicaid coverage is especially important for children because it supplies regular medical visits and access to medication.

“[Medicaid] is not a luxury as budget slashers might see it,” she said. “If [patients] are denied critical health care coverage it will not result in savings but in needlessly higher health care costs such as emergency room visits. We need to set politics aside and protect are most vulnerable population, particularly our children.”

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