The Miami Herald's coverage of the Florida Medicaid debate was significantly more comprehensive than the other four top circulating Florida newspapers, including multiple mentions of the benefits of expansion and the negative impacts the lack of expansion would have on the state and Floridians. However, similar to other top Florida papers, the Herald also largely missed out on discussing the coverage gap, which if not closed could leave hundreds of thousands of Floridians without affordable health coverage.
The Medicaid expansion in Florida, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, would extend the low income health care program to 763,890 people and create an estimated 70,000 new jobs, but the state's failure to expand Medicaid will have major negative economic and health related impacts on the state.
According to a Media Matters analysis of Medicaid expansion mentions from January 1, 2014 through March 4, 2014, the Herald discussed key benefits of expansion or the negative effects associated with not expanding Medicaid 11 times, including 5 mentions of the impact lack of expansion would have on Florida health systems. The next closest paper, the Tampa Bay Times, only had 4 mentions of the benefits of expanding or the negative effects of the failure to expand (click to expand):
This updated analysis mimics the findings of a previous Media Matters analysis of the top four highest circulating papers' coverage of Medicaid issues.
While no single article in the Herald covers all of the topics, the paper offers the most comprehensive analysis of the pros and cons of Medicaid expansion. The paper's focus on these key issues is important as Miami-Dade County has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country at nearly 40 percent of the population.
A January 3 article from The Herald's provides a clear example of what the paper did correctly in reporting the Medicaid debate. Instead of publishing a "he said/she said" back and forth between Florida's politicians or just mentioning the expansion with little context, the article discussed the cost sharing ratio of Medicaid expansion and also provided informative quotes that detailed a baseline number of potential eligible enrollees under expansion:
Though the federal government has promised to pay 100 percent of the cost [of the Medicaid expansion] for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter -- about $50 billion over 10 years -- Florida has not expanded Medicaid eligibility to include those persons and families earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which was about $15,300 a year for an individual and $31,300 a year for a family of four in 2013.
[Democratic] Rep. [Lori] Berman vowed that her party would make Medicaid expansion a Florida legislative priority in 2014.
She said the effort will include reminders to voters of the stakes involved and the House's Republican leaders responsible for refusing to hear a Senate plan that would have expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013.
"We need to make sure the people of Florida understand,'' she said, "you've got somewhere in the neighborhood of 840,000 to 1 million people who would be covered'' if Medicaid eligibility were expanded.
Also present in the Herald's reporting is information and analysis on Medicaid expansion's impact on doctors and health systems in the state, which could see funding cuts due to the Florida's reluctance to expand the program.
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