A call to extend Medicaid health coverage in Florida

3:00 PM, Apr 9, 2013   |    comments
Donya Marshall of Jacksonville holds up a picture of her three-year-old daughter Chloe and asks lawmakers to extend Medicaid health coverage.
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Tallahassee, Florida - Donya Marshall of Jacksonville makes an emotional appeal to state lawmakers to extend Medicaid health insurance to Floridians who need coverage.

On Tuesday, Marshall stood outside the Old Capitol with supporters of the idea to expand health coverage to a million uninsured Floridians.

She held up a picture of her three-year-old daughter Chloe, who was born with serous medical issues. Chloe requires frequent appointments with medical specialists every week, as well as specialized medical equipment in her home.

Her parents both work, and have health insurance, but the deductible is so high they have to rely on Medicaid to help with astronomical medical bills.

Donya Marshall says Medicaid has allowed Chloe to get the care she needs and today she is a healthy toddler.

"The emotional and physical burden that it takes on an entire family, who has a child with so many medical conditions can be devastating. So to not have the financial burden as well has really allowed us to stay together and get the care that she needs right in our hometown."

Dr. Daniel Plasencia of St. Joseph's Children's Hospital of Tampa called on lawmakers to act.

He said he's spent the last 30 years caring for children on Medicaid and the coverage has saved lives and also prevented families from going bankrupt.

"When parents gain coverage, children gain coverage and the economic security of the entire family is secure."

Dana Bledsoe of the Florida Association of Children's Hospitals called on lawmakers to consider the case of juveniles who age out of Medicaid and lose health coverage when they turn 19.

That happened to 19-year-old Geosel Robles of Naples. He has muscular dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disease that has no cure but the progression of the disorder can be slowed with treatments.

When he turned 18, he lost access to those treatments. Now he's in college and working 30 hours a week, but he does not have health insurance.

Robles says while his muscles are weak, his mind is strong and he has dreams of accomplishing big things in his future.

"I don't want this condition to bring me down. I don't want to give up. I want to look ahead to my future and I want to be a paralegal. I want to be a lawyer if possible. I want to make my parents proud of me."

The Florida House and Senate are split over what to do about Medicaid.

The Senate is proposing a plan that accepts more than $50 billion of federal cash over the next decade to offer subsidized health insurance.

But House members are reluctant to accept the federal money because they doubt all of it will be available in the future.