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Florida Counties Use Sales Tax to Fund Coverage for the Uninsured
Little voter opposition to tax increases, which are seen as long-term cost savings

Source(s): Phil Galewitz, Palm Beach Post (July 31)

Two counties in Florida, taking it upon themselves to help the uninsured rather than wait for state or federal action, voted to enact sales taxes to fund medical programs for the uninsured, reports the Palm Beach Post. Alachua County, which includes Gainesville, "narrowly" approved a quarter cent sales tax for the next seven years to establish a health program for the working poor who make below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Up to 14,000 residents are expected to qualify. Those who enroll in the program will pay a fee determined by income level, along with copayments. Employers of workers who enroll will be asked to pay a fee as well. "I think this program will help keep residents healthy and help all of us in the long run," said Alachua County Commissioner Cynthia Moore Chestnut. "It's a tax of compassion.

In Polk County, voters "overwhelmingly" approved a half-cent sales tax to enable 32,000 uninsured residents making less than the federal poverty level to enroll in a county-run health plan. Beneficiaries would pay small copayments for services but no premium. Neither county "faced any organized community opposition" to the taxes, though "officials did have to persuade residents that paying more taxes would help the county in the long run," according to the article.

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