Your Turn: Medicaid cuts leave big hole in area healthcare services

This is an opinion piece provided to The Palm Beach Post by a reader. The Post Editorial Board considers which pieces to run, but the opinions in these pieces are solely those of the writer and not those of The Post.

As the CEO and Board member of FoundCare, a nonprofit Federally Qualified Health Center in West Palm Beach dedicated to serving the most vulnerable members of our society, we are writing to spotlight the urgent need to continue Medicaid coverage for adults and children in Palm Beach County.

This coverage ended on April 1, leaving approximately 130,000 Medicaid recipients without coverage.

A brief history: In 1965, as part of the Social Security Act, Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor were created. The Florida Medicaid program was established in 1970. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act gave states the option to expand Medicaid eligibility in addition to the creation of the health insurance marketplace. In 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the option of not accepting Medicaid. While most states continued Medicaid coverage, 12 states, including Florida, opted out of Medicaid coverage for their citizens. During the COVID pandemic, the federal government expanded Medicaid coverage on an emergency basis in order to provide health care to vulnerable populations. That coverage ended on April 1.

FOR SUBSCRIBERS: Nearly 1M Florida residents may lose their health care starting April 1. Why?

Medicaid is more than just a government program. It represents a beacon of hope for millions of Americans who might otherwise be left without access to healthcare. For low income adults, people with chronic illnesses or disabilities, pregnant women, children or the blind, Medicaid offers a lifeline that guarantees access to essential medical treatment. Medicaid serves as a crucial safety net helping individuals maintain their health, manage chronic conditions and avoid preventable complications.

At FoundCare, 33% of our patient population relies on Medicaid. We provide primary care to anyone regardless of ability to pay, but find that our patients access to specialty services is severely limited by lack of coverage. When early intervention is not available, the strain on local emergency rooms and hospitals increases, driving up costs for everyone. While groups in our community, such as the Caridad Center and The Promise Fund of Florida, have tried to plug the holes in our social safety net, many people still fall through the gaps.

Medicaid coverage for adults and children is an essential pillar of a just and equitable healthcare system. It offers hope, access and peace of mind to those who need it most. In a country that does not provide universal healthcare coverage, Medicaid is extremely cost effective and plays a vital role.

More: Thousands of Floridians could be losing health insurance starting Monday. Here's what to know.

Gandhi once said "A society is judged by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable members.” We urge our Florida government to reinstate Medicaid coverage for its citizens. It is the right thing to do.

Christopher Irizarry is CEO of FoundCare and David Dodson, MD, is member of FoundCare's board of directors.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Medicaid cuts leaves thousands of Floridians without medical coverage