9 Investigates uninsured Florida residents

Updated:

Loading

FLORIDA - According to new numbers from the US Census Bureau, 20.9 percent of Florida residents are without healthcare coverage, with Orange and Osceola counties among the top four counties in the state for uninsured.

WFTV reporter Christopher Heath found out that only Texas has more uninsured residents than Florida. 

One in four people in Osceola County is without health coverage, while in Orange County, 22.7 percent of the population has no health insurance. 

Only Miami-Dade (29.5 percent) has more uninsured residents that Osceola County.

"There has got to be fundamental change in the way we are dealing with the uninsured," said Regional vice president of Florida Hospital Richard Morrison.

Florida Hospital in 2012 paid out $130 million in what the healthcare group calls "charity care." 

Florida Hospital, along with Orlando Health and the Central Florida Health Alliance, absorbed multimillion dollar costs in 2012 as a result of uninsured patients. 

Orlando Health reports $75 million in its "charity care" with Central Florida Health Alliance paying out $22 million in 2012.

"There has got to be a true transformation in healthcare because we cannot sustain this," said Morrison. "Because somebody is paying for it; that’s the hard reality."

The job of "paying for it" falls, as in any business, back on those who pay.  Hospitals, including Florida Hospital pass along the cost of uninsured patients back to patients with insurance who in turn pay higher rates for care to make up for the operational loss in "charity care."

"It’s not just swallowing a little bit it’s swallowing a lot." said Morrison, "It’s not just a little bit of money and that number is going up."

"My immune system is too active," said Orange County resident Kathleen Voss. 

Voss has been off and on Medicaid for the last decade.  Like many one-fifth of Orange County residents, she is uninsured. 

Voss, who suffers from a tissue disease, travels to St. Cloud to see a doctor who charges are a flat fee for care. But, for sudden medical problems she has been forced to turn to the emergency room for care, which is care she cannot pay for.

"It's a nightmare. I can't buy health insurance." said Voss. "I have gone through pockets of time where I had no insurance or times where I've had a $1,800 or $1,000 co-pays."

In February, Governor Rick Scott voiced his support for Medicaid expansion.  The state was poised to accept billions of federal dollars that would have opened insurance to more than $1 million Floridians, about one-third of the state’s uninsured. 

Despite the Governor’s vocal support for Medicaid expansion, the plan ultimately never emerged from the Florida Legislature.