Saturday , 25 October 2014
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Legislature starts session with a ‘no’ on Medicaid expansion

After several years of a conservative, strictly pro-business, anti-ordinary man-onthe- street, legislature we find our elected officials are starting to listen to the voices of the people. I loved the recent Miami Herald headline “Lawmakers to angry voters: We hear you.” Now let’s see if they are listening or just patronizing us. I don’t think they care.

A little history: First Gov. Rick Scott said that the taxpayers of Florida can’t afford to take on the financial burden of expanding Medicaid coverage to the uninsured residents of Florida. Then, our governor realized that the public all too well understood that the federal government would fund 100 percent of the first three year’s cost. Over a period of years the federal government would reduce its contribution to 90 percent. The governor changed his position and said let’s expand Medicaid and cover an additional 600,000 residents of the state. We owe it to the uninsured.

I am sure the governor, having run one of the largest hospital chains in the country, realizes that if we don’t catch an individual’s problem in its early stage they will end-up a far greater expense at a future date in a taxpayer funded hospital. One of the very first concerns of the legislature — in both the house and the senate — was the governor’s desire to accept the Medicaid expansion program. So into committee they went, and voted “no” to accepting the federal government’s offer of 100 percent coverage of the first three years cost of the program then a gradual reduction to 90 percent over the next few years.

The question now is did the governor really change his mind and want to accept the federal government’s offer or did he say so, knowing he was safe going before the public asking them to reelect him for another four years as a friend of the people governor, knowing that the conservative legislature would never back him. Both goals achieved.

The governor and legislature should note that the Florida Chamber of Commerce said it is willing to endorse Medicaid expansion as long as the legislature considers medical liability tort reform, creating more doctor residency positions, looking to find ways to move Medicaid patients into private plans among nine other considerations.

We are now two weeks into the 2013 session of our Florida Legislature. What direction are they really taking? What has been resolved? Are they working with the governor? Are they working in behalf of the voters of Florida? Or, are they acting to save their political lives and to hell with the public who sent them to Tallahassee in the first place?

The other big items under consideration are:

Education: A preliminary vote of the education committee approved the consideration of a change in the law that would permit parents of children in failing schools to vote converting a public school to a private charter school. Watch Jeb Bush’s position on the subject. School boards and parent groups in the main are against such a move as it would divert tax dollars and school district assets into private hands. Interestingly, we haven’t heard from Sen. Marco Rubio on the subject.

Property insurance: When Gov. Scott was running for the office he said that he would run the state efficiently like a private business. Yet, Citizens insurance, the eighth largest property insurer in the nation and the only real business run by the state, is a financial disaster. Everyday homeowners are forced to sell their homes as they can’t afford the high cost of property insurance — something must be done. One proposal, floating through Tallahassee would have Florida and other states, prone to storm damage, pool their assets and liabilities to spread out the risk.

Dolphins’ stadium: If the legislature supports Miami-Dade using bed tax revenue to support the makeover of the stadium it will be conditioned upon Miami-Dade voters having an up/down vote on the question.

Assisted-living facilities: The public is angered the way the last legislature dropped the ball on reform. This time they better do a real rewrite.

Texting while driving: We are one of the few states that haven’t addressed the subject — a shame.

Next column: A report card on our Florida Legislature.

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