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The state of Florida is one step closer to the expansion of Medicaid, and more UCF students could now be eligible.

The UCF Health Services Offices reported that approximately 15 percent of enrolled students — about 15,000 students — do not have health insurance.

UCF's Student Government Association presented a resolution in support of the expansion of Florida's Medicaid on April 23, in hopes that more students at UCF could now be eligible for the program.

Governmental Affairs Committee Vice Chair Ryan Garwood, who started the resolution, said his main focus is on helping UCF students get care.

According to the resolution, "it is the opinion of the Forty-Seventh Student Senate of the University of Central Florida to support efforts to expand Medicaid as provided for under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides states with the ability to expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which could increase the number of students eligible.

There are 29 states that have expanded Medicaid, and six states are currently in discussions for the expansion, including Florida. If Medicaid were to expand throughout the whole state, Garwood said it would cover approximately one million additional Floridians.

This expansion could reduce the amount of uncompensated treatments, which would allow health care costs to drop.

Garwood said this is especially important for college students because medical professionals are at many times avoided due to the high costs for treatment.

Although health insurance is not a requirement to access UCF's Health Center, Student Health Services Director Michael Deichen said anytime healthcare becomes more accessible, generally more people will seek care.

"A common concern among uninsured students is being able to afford the services we recommend for them," Deichen said. "That is why insurance is so important, so that when services are needed, cost is not the determining factor in seeking those services or not."

As a junior health sciences major, Garwood said he is always looking out for news in the health field because he feels that these issues are often forgotten, which is what inspired him to introduce this idea to the GAC committee.

"For those who would be eligible [for Medicaid], it would provide them with an adequate and reliable source of health care coverage previously unavailable to them," Garwood said.

While Medicaid expansion serves as a controversial problem in the United States, Garwood said SGA and GAC are mainly concerned with the opportunity arising for healthcare coverage at UCF.

"I think saying something and hoping for what happens is better than not saying something at all," Garwood said. "If it wasn't for me, I don't think the idea would have come up."

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Rachel Stuart is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelSCentralFloridaFuture.com.

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