Group Releases Breaking Barriers Report, Citing Healthcare Inequities In Florida

    The Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment partnered with the Alliance for a Just Society to compile a report about healthcare shortfalls.


    By Jacob Engels


    By rejecting Medicaid expansion, not just once, but twice, the Florida legislature has turned its back on nearly a million low income Floridians, leaving them without health care, according to a report put together by the Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment.


    In addition, even families with insurance coverage, especially people of color and the Latino community, are still going withouthealth care, access to providers, necessary medication and treatment. Language and cultural barriersand a lack of experience in using health insurance have not been addressed.


    During a teleconference earlier this week, the Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment, highlighted inequities around health care in Florida.


    “People of color have been left out of the health care system for too long. It’s time to take steps to ensure everyone has access to quality health care they are guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act.”


    The recommendations mentioned at during the teleconference come from “Breaking Barriers: Improving Health Insurance Enrollment and Access to Health Care in Florida” a new report produced by the Alliance for a Just Society, a national organizing network that has produced pivotal health care reports for 20 years.


    “It’s unconscionable that so many have been left out of something as basic as the chance to enjoy good health,” said Amy Ritter, Civic Engagement Director for F.I.R.E. “Lack of Internet access or speaking another language is not a reason to be locked out of a health system that purports to be open to all.”


    Florida’s deep divides between social classes, income and ethnicity are magnified when it comes to access to health care,” said Gary Delgado, author of the “Breaking Barriers” report.


    Delgado and his research team analyzed health care access throughout Florida, interviewing people in low-income communities in their own language. Many of the experiences they heard are like Kathleen Voss Woolrich’s:


    “Because I fall under the coverage gap and am not consistently covered by health insurance, I haven’t received the care that I’ve needed for the last five years, and have had to go to emergency rooms instead of a doctor. If people have access to primary care doctors, it keeps them out of the emergency room, and I think that my health would have been better had I gotten early care when I was first diagnosed with an auto immune disorder.”


    Key recommendations in the report include:


    Expand Medicaid – By accepting federal funding for Medicaid expansion, as many as a million more people in Florida will have access to health care. More funding will be available to hospitals and clinics, and more, good-paying jobs will be created for workers.


    Improve language access.


    Simplify the insurance-shopping experience. Simplify print and electronic descriptions of plans and benefits, making cost information transparent and communicating clear information about deductibles, co-pays.


    Address racial health disparities. Impose penalties on insurers who don’t reduce disparities within required timeframes.


    Address the underlying causes of poor health particularly in poor rural communities. Encourage innovation and experimentation to find new solutions.


    Assure that primary care providers are available within 30 minutes average driving or public transit time and specialists withinan hour of all residents.


    Expand school-based health centers, especially in medically-underserved communities, to mitigate the lack of other health care options.


     “With innovation, determination and a fierce determination to end racial and cultural discrepancies, Florida can provide not only coverage, but also quality health care to all,” said Alex Rivera, another speaker during the teleconference who represents the largely impacted Latino community in Florida.


    Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at