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PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact Florida: Is Florida No. 2 in uninsured?

Florida Democratic Senate leader Chris Smith has found himself in unfamiliar territory lately: agreeing with Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

"Medicaid expansion, Obamacare, teacher raises. Who is this guy?" Smith tweeted Feb. 21 in response to Scott's announcements that he would support Medicaid expansion and raises for teachers.

Flash forward to March 5, when Scott gave his annual State of the State address. The former state budget slayer and foe of Obamacare gave a speech in which he called for helping the poor, the disabled and teachers.

So how does a Democratic leader — whose role is to attack the Republican Scott — respond? By telling voters that while the Democrats believe Scott is now on the right track in some areas, the state still has far to go to help the middle class and the poor.

Smith's speech criticized Scott's past education funding record and called for Scott to give state workers a raise, protect the environment and undo past changes to Florida elections law that contributed to long lines in November.

Smith also called on Scott to work with the Legislature to ensure that it supports Medicaid expansion, despite opposition in the House. Scott announced his support for the expansion in February, but has said it isn't one of his top priorities. Expanding Medicaid would give health care coverage to more of the poorest Floridians. Currently, the program is restricted to children, the elderly, the disabled and pregnant women.

"We ask for you to provide true leadership, work with the Legislature and make sure that the House goes on with our Medicaid expansion. We are second in the nation in the uninsured. We need to make sure we expand Medicaid and use the federal dollars that will help our state budget," Smith said.

Is Florida No. 2 in the nation for uninsured?

We found there are a couple of different ways to account for the uninsured among the states.

A spokeswoman for Smith cited an August 2012 article in the Huffington Post that ranked Florida at No. 2 in its share of uninsured residents based on 2010 U.S. Census data. Texas came in first with 26.3 percent, followed by Florida at 25.3 percent, and Nevada at 25.1 percent.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation keeps track of state health facts and also draws on research from the U.S. Census Bureau. Kaiser examines state populations up to age 64, since people who are 65 and older can get Medicare.

By that ranking, the states with the highest percentages of uninsured in 2010-11 were Texas (27 percent) followed by Nevada (25 percent). For third, New Mexico and Florida were essentially tied.

When looking at only the sheer number of uninsured under the age of 65, Florida again ranked third with 3.7 million people uninsured, behind California and Texas.

Our ruling

Sen. Chris Smith said "We are second in nation in the uninsured."

There are different ways to measure the uninsured. In terms of sheer numbers, Florida is third.

We found the most useful measure is to count Floridians under the age of 65, which includes only those not eligible for Medicare. That measure shows the state in third place in the percentage of uninsured, after first-place Texas and second-place Nevada.

Smith is slightly off on his numbers, but his point is on solid ground. We rate this claim Mostly True.

The statement

Florida is "second in the nation in the uninsured."

Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, in a speech

The ruling

Politifact ruling: Mostly True
The most reliable figures we saw have Florida coming in at No. 3. That's not No. 2, of course, but it's close. We rate Smith's claim Mostly True.

PolitiFact Florida: Is Florida No. 2 in uninsured? 03/17/13 [Last modified: Sunday, March 17, 2013 9:31pm]
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