State Senator Dwight Bullard (D-Cutler Bay) said Florida Governor Rick Scott should have accepted the U.S. government’s Medicaid expansion program in order to care for the needs of an estimated 800,000 low income Floridians.
And that’s bad news for those living with HIV.
“When you give someone access to comprehensive healthcare — not just drugs for HIV — they do better,” said Michael Kaplan, President and CEO of AIDS United.
In Florida many HIV patients rely on access to the Ryan White HIV program for their medications.
But Kaplan said it’s been proven that patients that have access to comprehensive medical care are more likely to live longer, get and stay on treatment, have lower viral loads, and generally have improved health outcomes.
Kaplan pointed to Massachusetts as example of a success story noting that by providing comprehensive healthcare to their residents they’ve been able to reduce the new HIV infection rate by 42 percent.
“The South is not seeing the successes,” Kaplan said. “Florida has a huge portion of the epidemic.”
He also noted that gay, bi and MSM (men who have sex with men) make up two-thirds of new HIV infections and those statistics are more troubling in communities of color and young gay men of color.
Senator Bullard, a teacher who represents portions of Miami-Dade, Monroe, Collier and Hendry Counties in the Florida Senate, spoke with SFGN via telephone Wednesday afternoon.
When asked his thoughts on the current deadlock in Tallahassee, Bullard said it was unfortunate that a special session was needed. The Florida House and Senate are at odds over how to craft a budget with medical coverage front and center.
“I urge Governor Scott to expand Medicaid,” Bullard said.
Scott met with officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. The pool of resources for low income Floridians is set to expire on June 30.
“The federal government should not just completely cut off a federal program for low income families that has been working for years,” Scott told the Sun Sentinel.
Bullard said there are new programs that will help low income families and those would be discussed during the special session. Bullard also stopped short of asking for Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) to resign.
Gaetz, known in politico circles for his snarky use of Twitter, criticized Bullard and Senate Democratic leader Arthenia Joyner for their emergency lawsuit filed in response to the Florida House ending session three days early.
Gaetz specifically insulted Bullard’s spelling. His tweet created a firestorm in the media and even Republican leadership called for Gaetz to tone it down.
“It was insensitive and he should know better,” Bullard said. “He let his privilege show and hopefully he can learn from this.”