A new look at life expectancy across the nation has dialed in predictions down to the neighborhood level. The data, released this week, is the first-ever attempt to show the long-term health impacts of living even a few blocks apart. Here’s what it says about Central Florida.

Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, the percentage of uninsured Americans has dropped. Today, more than 20 million of us have access to health care thanks to the ACA and Medicaid expansion.

That’s the good news.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans are still uninsured. Last year alone, more than 2.6 million Floridians did not have the safety net of health insurance at one time or another. That’s nearly 13 percent of our population, a rate that tops the national average and ranks as the fifth highest in the country.

The reasons vary why so many people do not have health insurance, but for many, it boils down to basic math: They simply cannot afford it.

So how do we change this dynamic? Fortunately, we don’t need to start over with a Medicare-for-all solution to move forward. The model that’s in place is solid. We can — and should — build on what’s already working.

Take a moment to think again about those 20 million Americans ­­who have been helped by the ACA. More than 1.7 million are in Florida. Some — maybe many — live with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma or cancer. Before the ACA, these individuals may have been denied coverage or charged higher premiums because of their pre-existing conditions. With the ACA, that can’t happen. They’re protected. And it’s life-changing.

Yes, there is always room for improvement, but the ACA works. It’s a good foundation on which to build. Through the ACA and Medicaid expansion, we can bring health insurance to more low-income individuals.

There’s no reason why Florida can’t do this.

Other states have done it and seen much larger decreases in the rates of their uninsured. There are other benefits as well. Research has found that expanding Medicaid has had a positive effect on access to care as well as the affordability of care. By some estimates, this approach would reach more than 650,000 uninsured Floridians ­— many of whom are in a working family.

It’s smart. It’s possible. It’s the right solution. Rather than push our own version of “repeal and replace,” a strategy the Republicans tried from the outset but that ultimately failed, our priority should be to save the ACA. Instead of risking everything on the mirage of Medicare-for-all, we must focus on closing the gap for those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for premium subsidies.

If we don’t, we risk something far greater: leaving some of our most vulnerable citizens behind.


Dick Batchelor is president of the Dick Batchelor Management Group.

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