Local groups join push to close Medicaid coverage gap in Florida

ST. PETERSBURG — Elisa Abolafia leaned her cane against the railing in front of City Hall and gingerly stepped to the lectern.

The 60-year-old former private investigator suffers from severe scoliosis and four ruptured discs. Looking for work and too young for Medicare, Abolafia said she recently found out she is in the so-called Medicaid coverage gap, so she pays out-of-pocket for a patchwork of medical care.

On Thursday, she stood beside Mayor Rick Kriseman and City Council member Darden Rice and pleaded with the state Legislature to accept federal dollars to expand the Medicaid program in Florida.

“I’m a combination of scared and angry, like why is this happening to me?” Abolafia said at a news conference.

Kriseman and Rice have joined a chorus of local officials pressuring lawmakers to accept $50 billion over 10 years offered by the federal Affordable Care Act. Under the law, states were supposed to expand Medicaid eligibility to nearly all adults with incomes at or below the poverty level. But a Supreme Court ruling in 2012 made Medicaid expansion a state option.

An estimated 800,000 Florida residents — including roughly 54,000 in Pinellas County — do not earn enough to qualify for federal financial aid to…

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