Tallahassee is failing Floridians on health care issue
“ The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” – Franklin Roosevelt It’s hard to imagine a more politically hostile atmosphere for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) than Florida. Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature have denied Medicaid expansion, harming more than 800,000 Floridians, including thousands of veterans who lack health insurance. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio worked on the creation of Florida’s anti-Obamacare health care “exchange,” which proved to be a failure. Fewer than 200 people enrolled in the program.
This totally contradicts how Floridians view the Affordable Care Act. More than 1.6 million Floridians have signed up for coverage, 72 percent obtained coverage for $100 or less per month. They have embraced “Obamacare,” leading the nation in the number of residents enrolling in the program.
Florida will lose billions of dollars by not expanding Medicaid, which includes $2 billion in federal funds for the Low Income Pool. This creates a huge hole in the budget presented by Gov. Scott. Two years ago, when Scott was seeking re-election, he spoke in support of Medicaid expansion, calling it “a compassionate and common sense solution.” He’s since reversed his position, saying Floridians will have
to pay a share of it and that will mean higher taxes.
The truth is Medicaid expansion is funded by our federal tax dollars through 2016 and never dips below 90 percent after. A new federal report shows that Florida is losing $8.9 billion and 71,000 jobs by not expanding Medicaid.
Florida has known for well over a year these funds were ending. The director of Medicaid Services (CMS) warned that federal funds Florida hospitals depended on to pay for the uninsured would no longer be forthcoming. Hospitals had received funding from a $2.2 billion program set to expire June 1. Hospitals will need to make up the lost money somewhere. Rather than address this critical issue, House Republicans adjourned the legislative session early, violating the State’s Constitution.
Gov. Scott is now using the same people he turned his back on to try to solve the problem. Scott told the federal government that taking away the money will hurt Florida families, yet the governor refuses to expand Medicaid insurance to help more than 800,000 low-income Floridians.
The governor and the Legislature have displayed a stunning lack of leadership throughout this process. He balanced his budget using federal health care funding he was aware was expiring and reversed his support for Medicaid expansion.
Then he was absent from budget discussions. He bullied Senate lawmakers by threatening to veto projects they supported and threatened Florida hospitals by launching a commission to investigate their finances.
Scott and the Legislature are not helping to improve the lives of average Floridians. They are pandering to special interests and ignoring the citizens they are supposed to be representing and helping. What a shame.
JOSEPH FLYNN, The Villages