I believe we should treat others as we wish to be treated, especially those who are less fortunate through no fault of their own. And I believe, as the Good Book says, you should leave the gleanings of your harvest for the poor.
One way we could improve, even save, the lives of some of our fellow Floridians is by expanding access to medical care. Roughly 1.2 million low-income residents could benefit if we expanded the program for the poor known as Medicaid.
I’ve offered our state leaders one idea about how it could still be done – an idea I think elected officials of both major political parties should at least consider. I’m sharing an opinion column that was just published by TCPalm.com, the online site for Scripps Newspapers serving the Treasure Coast.
Please take a minute to read it, and if you agree, then consider asking the governor to urge lawmakers to act. Word is the governor is considering a special session not on Medicaid expansion but on casino gambling. You will find information for contacting the governor’s office at: www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/
As always, thank you for your interest in public service.
Florida lawmakers dilly dally while constituents die
By Michael Goforth
Published: April 26, 2014
After refusing to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act to Florida’s working poor last year, state lawmakers have refused during the current session of the Legislature to even discuss the issue.
That is, until now, with only a few days left to do anything.
If lawmakers had been serious about helping an estimated 800,000 to 1.1 million residents get health insurance coverage, there would have been serious talk much earlier. Instead, what we seem to be getting is political posturing.
Last year, the Florida Senate approved a proposal from Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, to expand health coverage for residents by accepting federal money and allowing the uninsured to purchase insurance on the open market.
But, House Republicans, who don’t like Obamacare or Medicaid, shot the idea down.
As a result, the state rejected about $51 billion in federal funding over the next decade. There would have been no cost to the state for expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act for the first few years and then the state would have had to pick up the tab for no more than 10 percent of the cost.
Also as a consequence of state’s refusal to expand Medicaid coverage — for those who make too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid but too little to qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act — researchers at Harvard Medical School and the City University of New York estimated 1,158 to 2,221 Floridians would die annually. Those lives, researchers found, could be saved with health coverage.
That’s a chilling reality that ideologically driven Republican leaders, particularly in the state House, apparently don’t find compelling enough to take action.
On April 15, Florida’s U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson opened fresh debate in a letter to Florida’s governor and legislative leaders saying he had gotten word that the federal government is “ready and willing” to work with the state in designing its own plan for expanding Medicaid coverage for the state’s needy.
And Nelson even suggested an alternative to state funding for the Medicaid expansion. His plan called for counties and hospital taxing districts, which subsidize indigent care at hospitals, to shift some of that money to pay the state’s share for Medicaid expansion.
Nelson reckoned that if Tallahassee lawmakers are worried about the cost to the state for the program, his proposal would remedy that concern.
But, the issue really wasn’t as much about money as about politics. Nelson’s idea has apparently fallen flat with legislative leaders.
In response to Nelson’s letter, however, state Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, sent a letter April 17 to Sylvia Burwell, secretary-designate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, suggesting potential talk about Medicaid expansion if there would be more flexibility by the federal government.
Those include allowing the state to partially or gradually expand Medicaid, require recipients to pay a share of their costs, and reduce “bureaucratic barriers that block innovations,” whatever that means.
Remember, this is from the same Senate that last year actually approved a form of Medicaid expansion only to see it rejected by the House.
In closing his lengthy letter, Gaetz wrote, “It would be wrong to conclude that the lack of an expansion decision to date means that Florida does not recognize unmet health care needs in this state or lacks a commitment to improvement. The debate over how to improve access to affordable care is serious, vigorous, and ongoing, but we need your help. We ask you to contribute to our ability to find an affordable and sustainable method to provide access to quality health care for all Floridians by authorizing greater flexibility and creating true partnerships between states and the federal government.”
What a bunch of horse hockey.
The federal government wants to give Florida some of our tax money to provide health insurance to our state’s working poor. But, our lawmakers would rather play games while the uninsured die.
Residents of other states are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid — including under Republican leadership in states such as Arizona and New Jersey. Our lawmakers, though, would rather see residents suffer by scoring political points against a program and a president they don’t like.
They should be embarrassed. But, that would require that they have a conscience.