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The perils of Florida’s refusal to expand Medicaid

Charlene Dill is one of an estimated 2,000 people who expected to face dire health issues due to lack of access to care

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A


“I think there will probably be members in our caucus who think that this budget does more and that they have some basis for voting for it,” Thurston said last week, according to the News Service of Florida.

The political pressure for Medicaid expansion reaches far higher than the mahogany desks of Tallahassee, though. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Florida, has been actively pursuing a compromise for Medicaid expansion in Florida behind the scenes in Tallahassee.

“An idea is to involve public hospitals, which serve many of the state’s low-income or indigent patients, in providing some of their revenue in place of state funding for Medicaid expansion,” he wrote in a statement. “Tragically, the failure to expand Medicaid means that some people will die earlier due to a lack of proper medical treatment,” he said via email in response to questions for this story.

Congressman Alan Grayson, who received significant criticism for his “Die Quickly” placard, which he released in reaction to Republican obstruction of the ACA, replied more specifically to the case.

“Charlene’s sad and unnecessary death illustrates what I have said all along: For the 1 million of Floridians who cannot afford health care coverage, the Republican health care plan is simply this: ‘Don’t get sick,’” Grayson says. “If you do get sick, and if you cannot afford coverage, the GOP has nothing for you but prayer. The Republicans have no answers, no alternatives, no ideas, no safety nets, no sympathy, no empathy and no compassion. Just these three words: ‘Don’t get sick.’ The GOP’s refusal to expand Medicaid, at no cost to Florida, has put the GOP’s appalling disregard for human life on full display. As far as they’re concerned, if you’re not a fetus, you’re on your own. The Republicans would literally rather watch people like Charlene die than give them the care that they need to stay healthy and alive. It’s disgusting and sadistic.”

Grayson entered Woolrich’s account of Dill’s death – which she published online – into the Congressional Record, even having a representative deliver the document at Dill’s funeral, which was, again, crowd-funded by Woolrich on GoFundMe.com. Woolrich raised $4,000 in less than a week to pay for the funeral.

“I memorialized Charlene’s life and death in the Congressional Record, because the Republicans want to pretend that none of this is happening. That Charlene didn’t die as a result of their callous neglect – that no Floridians will die as a result of their willful refusal to expand Medicaid at no cost,” Grayson says. “But I’m not going to let them forget. I’m not going to let them pretend. This is not a game; this is very real. This is life and death.”

The politics of the issue, and of Dill’s death, don’t necessarily bleed into the practicalities of Medicaid.

“As you know, and just to clarify, as an executive state agency, we administer directives from the governor’s office,” regional managing director for the Department of Children and Families for Central Florida Bill D’Aiuto says. “I think, as you know, the Legislature decided not to expand Medicaid.”

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