"The great advantage we have is that the decisions we all make – as governments, businesses, communities, families & individuals – can influence the trajectory of this #COVID19 epidemic.”
Tedro Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General
By Alison Yager, Director of Policy Advocacy
COVID-19, the novel coronavirus which has reached pandemic proportions, presents a public health emergency. Some states have invested significant resources in their public health systems and medical safety net, preparing them to meet this challenge with robust operations. Meanwhile, Florida ranks 39th in the nation for public health funding per capita, and has failed to expand Medicaid, leaving us with the country’s fourth highest rate of uninsured (13%). This systematic disassembling of the public health safety net is brought to light as COVID-19 threatens the health and lives of all Floridians, but leaves acutely vulnerable all those uninsured residents who may be unable to access testing or treatment, as well as those, who because of a harsh new immigration test, may be afraid to do so. Florida should immediately take the following steps to address the public health crisis we face : 
A virus as infectious as this one will not be bound by neighborhood, or by coverage status. A server delivering food while sick with COVID-19, for instance, puts all restaurant patrons at risk; a supermarket cashier sick with COVID-19 puts all shoppers at risk. And these are precisely the sorts of employees most likely to lack health insurance. If Florida were to expand Medicaid, low-wage workers like these would be among the approximately 800,000 newly eligible for Medicaid, and in turn, access to critical health services.
Seen through the prism of current events, our failure to expand Medicaid is not just a moral outrage, it is an accomplice to the spread of a lethal pandemic. The time to take action to protect the health and save the lives of all Floridians is now.
“Public health is purchasable. Within natural limitations, a community can determine its own death rate.” – Hermann Biggs, New York State Health Commissioner, 1914-23
1. Adapted from “Medicaid and the Coronavirus: Putting the Nation’s Largest Health Care First Responder to Work”, Sara Rosenbaum for the Commonwealth Fund, March 9, 2020
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