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My Turn
Other Views from Those in the Know
Deirdre Macnab
President, League of Women Voters of Florida.
Gov. Scott, Help Us Access Health Care Insurance

Kaleb Langdale, 17, of Moore Haven, recently was swimming with his friends in one of our Florida rivers, near Lake Okeechobee. Suddenly, Kaleb was attacked by a 10-foot alligator. His arm was caught in the alligator's jaws like a vise.

Using a technique he had seen on the TV show "Swamp People," he grabbed the skin on the bottom of its jaw. After a struggle, he jerked his arm free, severing it below the elbow, as the gator was starting its death roll. On shore, he staunched the bleeding with spider webs.

Now Kaleb and his family face almost as frightening a foe: inadequate health-care coverage. His family has set up a website to help with expenses.

Really? Relying on websites, collection cups at grocery check-outs and bake sales — is this what America has come to for help with medical expenses? Yet often for many families, these methods are what keeps them from the door of bankruptcy after a medical emergency. Medical expenses are the single-largest reason for bankruptcy in America, and Florida has the second-highest number of uninsured families of all states.

How can we help citizens get protection? Now a critical part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is to require states across the country to set up health-care exchanges to help families find adequate coverage before an emergency happens.

A health-care exchange is an information source, where they can comparison shop, much like a travel website where consumers compare prices and other options. A place Floridians who need health-care coverage can turn to as they seek to find providers, and make sense of costs and benefits. Many other states, such as Utah and Massachusetts, have already moved ahead in setting up this competitive marketplace to help their families make informed choices.

Yet our Florida leaders refuse. Gov. Rick Scott has stated he will not abide by this requirement. Our legislative leaders continue to stonewall while they enjoy state-provided health insurance covering hospital, surgical and physician services, and mental-health services, prescription drugs and catastrophic coverage against large medical expenses.

Our leaders' stance in Florida is all the more concerning when you consider that almost 55 percent of Floridians without health insurance earn just more than 133 percent of the poverty level (roughly $22,000 for a family of four). These are the very people who need a health-care information exchange, so they can find coverage, and not rely on bake sales to get coverage when husbands get brain cancer and children need new kidneys.

Just like other federal programs, such as Social Security when first passed, the Affordable Care Act is not perfect. It will need continued improvement in the years to come. But it is an essential first step in our country tackling our health-care dragon. This issue is one that jeopardizes our economy as we pay almost twice as much as other western countries to cover less of our population.

The opportunity is a chance to take an important first step in expanding coverage and emphasizing prevention to minimize the need for expensive cures later on. Many still do not understand that annual preventive checks, such as pap smears and colonoscopies, will now be covered for Americans, as will vaccinations and preventive checks for children. Our young adults will be allowed to remain on their parents' coverage until age 26.

Other states are moving forward quickly to set up their own health-care exchanges to help their citizens make informed choices about their health-care coverage. Why isn't Florida? The feds are encouraging states to innovate, and many are moving quickly to do so. We urge our governor with his background in health care to use his knowledge to move Florida forward using innovative new ways to cut costs, while providing all Floridians with access to basic health care. What a legacy that would be.

We know disaster strikes, illnesses happen, and everyday Florida families are forced to shake the collection cup to stave off bankruptcy. We call on the governor to step up and help Florida figure out how to solve this life-threatening challenge. Lives and futures are at stake.

Deirdre Macnab is president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Editor's note: This piece was first published in The Orlando Sentinel.

by Dr. Radut.