When Moody Chisholm, CEO of St. Vincent’s HealthCare, arrived at a White House meeting Monday about Medicaid expansion and the health insurance marketplace, he had no illusions that Florida’s uninsured would magically have coverage when he left.
But the meeting, held by the White House Business Council with about 40 invited health-care and business leaders from Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, was a step in that direction, he said.
He met federal officials who “expressed willingness” to meet with Florida’s legislative leaders to discuss the state’s objection to Medicaid expansion “and to look at alternatives,” he said.
Also, the officials were open to finding ways to help small business owners and their employees get health insurance through the marketplace.
“My expectation was that it would be an opportunity for discussion,” he said. “The Catholic faith is about advocating for the littlest and the weakest.”
The Affordable Care Act initially required states to expand Medicaid coverage for their low-income residents. The United State Supreme Court upheld the health-care law but said the federal government could not force states to expand Medicaid.
Florida was one of the states that rejected expansion, which meant rejecting $51 billion in federal money over 10 years. Opponents in the Legislature said they were concerned that expansion would eventually cost the state too much money to maintain.
As a result, about 800,000 low-income adults in Florida were left without insurance because of a coverage gap. They earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for tax credits used to offset costs associated with purchasing plans through the new health-care law, according to news reports.
Chisholm said he respects the position taken by Medicaid expansion opponents but favors the expansion. Florida, he said, is losing $18.1 million a day without it and that money is going to other states to protect their residents and boost their economies.
“I think it is so important,” he said. “This much capital money means jobs. Morally and economically this makes sense.”
At the meeting, Chisholm also lobbied federal officials to bring more small business owners and their employees into the health-care marketplace. About 75 percent of businesses nationwide are one-person operations and 79 percent of the others have fewer than 10 employees, he said.
He suggested the federal government pro-actively “open discussions” with brokers, the insurance and human resources consultants that companies get advice from about buying insurance.
“We can make a big step forward if we can get small businesses to acquire insurance or to encourage their employees to buy their own,” he said.
Also attending the White House meeting was Hester Clark, president of the Jacksonville-based Hester Group, a communications consulting firm.
Clark said she learned the value of Medicaid through personal experience.
“Twenty-seven years ago, my family received Medicaid benefits,” she said. “Without the Medicaid Medically Needy program, our son would not be the healthy adult he is today.”
As a business owner, she now supports Medicaid expansion for professional reasons as well.
“I urge other small business owners to join me,” she said. “Our businesses, communities and nation all need a healthy workforce.”
Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109