Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Ed Narain believes medicaid expansion is viable in Florida if a Democrat wins the WH

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Ken Conklin says the Affordable Care Act literally saved his life.

The Pinellas County business consultant was diagnosed with environmentally induced asthma in late 2011, and said he struggled in dealing with that malady for several years until he got signed up to the ACA in early 2014. That’s when he was finally able to see an ear, nose and throat specialist, who ordered that he undergo surgery that opened up his sinuses after a decade-long struggle.

“Today is the first time in four years that I’m able to go out during the season,” he said Thursday morning at Florida state Representative Ed Narain’s district office in Tampa’s Ybor City. “During this whole time, I lived in my bedroom 20 hours a day, sealed my windows, sealed my bedroom, and moved my business into my closet,” he said. “If I had to go out of the house, I had to have my emergency inhaler.”

Democrats in swing states around the nation held press conferences to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the controversial health care overhaul that Democrats say has made a real difference in the lives of millions of people.

“Twenty million Americans gained access to insurance thru the Affordable Care Act,” announced St. Petersburg based allergist Dr. Mona Mangat, who added that the uninsured rate in Florida has dropped from 21.3 percent to 15.2 percent in the past couple of years since the law has gone into affect. “So access has improved. People’s lives have been saved, and less people live in fear of medical bankruptcy,” she said.

But Narain and Magat said more could be done – and they’re pushing for the Florida Legislature to expand Medicaid, an issue that state lawmakers have refused to act on over the past four years.

Interestingly, Narain predicts the Legislature will do so next year – if a Democrat is elected president.

“I believe that Florida’s resistance to Medicaid is simply political,” the second-term representative said. “There’s a belief that if a Republican is elected (president), you would see them take Obamacare and change it to a block grant program. Then you may see Florida Republicans say, ‘yes, we’ll accept the money and enact our own plan.’ But, if a Democrat is elected, I think think you the see continuation of the ACA in its current format over the next eight years. At that point, I think Florida politicians will have no choice but to accept the money.”

Although a passionate supporter of the ACA, Dr. Mangat said the law definitely needs improvements. She mentioned network adequacy, which has become more difficult with mergers between large insurers.”Networks are getting smaller, choices becoming less, and that’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” she said.

Manga also mentioned the rising price of drugs and out-of-pockets costs for those on the plan that also need to be corrected, and said if there wasn’t so much gridlock in Washington, they already would have been.

Florida saw the highest enrollment through an Obamacare health insurance exchange of any state in the country, with 1.7 million people signing up for coverage this year. Overall, the Obama administration says 20 million people have obtained health insurance as a result of the law.

Nationally, Republicans continue to resist the bill. On Wednesday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio said, “It’s been six years since America’s healthcare system was thrown into turmoil by the signing of ObamaCare – a bad law that has resulted in six years of broken promises and higher health care costs as premiums and deductibles continue to rise. There is no way to justify the law’s continued failure.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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