Health care advocates are calling on Congress to close the coverage gap, saying abortion ruling increases urgency

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Congress met this week for the first time since the US Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade repealed, and health care advocates are urging lawmakers to spend the time trying to close the insurance gap.

A coalition of groups including the Florida Policy Institute, Florida Voices for Health and MomsRising hosted a webinar Tuesday to discuss the issue they say is especially important now that states that haven’t expanded Medicaid are restricting access rather restrict reproductive health care.

Approximately 425,000 Floridians live in the coverage gap, which means they earn too much to qualify for the state’s Medicaid program but not enough to receive premium tax credits in the Affordable Care Act Marketplace.

Many of these residents are people of color, as Rep. Angie Nixon notes [D-Jacksonville] pointed out that complications are more common during pregnancy.

“Loss of access to legal abortion will likely mean higher maternal and mortality rates, increasing health disparities, and non-enlargement states like Florida are moving to restrict legal abortion the most,” Nixon said.

It’s crucial that people have access to health care, advocates said, so that those who don’t want children can effectively prevent pregnancy and those who do can give birth safely.

Pregnant women in Florida can access Medicaid more easily than other low-income adults, and the state is one of several nationwide to opt for it this year Extend postpartum protection for a full year instead of 60 days.

But Medicaid coverage after childbirth isn’t enough, argued Holly Bullard, the Florida Policy Institute’s chief strategy and development officer.

“People in the coverage gap often miss out on antenatal and early antenatal care because Medicaid pregnancy coverage doesn’t kick in until people know they’re pregnant and apply for Medicaid,” she explained. “Closing the Medicaid coverage gap in this upcoming reconciliation package would expand access to comprehensive coverage for women at a critical moment.”

Thousands of others could also benefit from closing the coverage gap, including Seminole County’s Allison Holmes. She is a full-time caregiver for her son, who has a disability and has struggled to access health care for years.

Holmes said she wishes Florida would expand Medicaid like 38 other states in the nation have, but leaders have repeatedly refused.

“You’re on your own in Florida, and if there’s a way out, I haven’t found it,” she said, before urging Congress to act.

Policy experts say one possible solution would be to extend eligibility for ACA subsidies to residents living in non-enlargement states.

It’s unclear if Congress will include policy changes in its next attempt at a spending package, which comes after the Build Back Better Act passed in the House last year but died in the Senate.

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