Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

House Speaker Will Weatherford in control of Medicaid decision

Time and dissonance have a way of obscuring the past. We lose track of where an argument began, and which roads led us to this point.

Take expanded health care in Florida.

Today's debate is far removed from where it began months ago, and the testimony of those involved has long since faded from memory.

So, as the state Legislature heads into its final weeks with a solution still nowhere in sight, there is a critical detail that should not be overlooked.

If low-income Floridians are without health coverage at this time next year, they will have Will Weatherford to thank.

The House speaker has occupied a lower-profile role on health care in recent weeks, but it is fair to say no individual has done more to torpedo Medicaid expansion in Florida.

The president and the governor are in favor of expansion. Polls say residents want it, the state's leading health care organizations have lobbied for it, and the Chamber of Commerce has endorsed it. Even the Republican-dominated Senate has proposed an alternative plan that would use federal Medicaid funds.

The sticking point is the Florida House. And the fault is Weatherford's.

Think of how odd that seems in retrospect. At the start of the year, Rick Scott was the hard-core conservative, and Weatherford was the bipartisan breath of air.

And yet it was Weatherford who opened up the legislative session with an inscrutable attack on Medicaid expansion. And it was Weatherford who played to the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

And it is Weatherford who has allowed the House to throw up a partisan roadblock to health care for up to a million Floridians.

His concerns are legitimate.

His arguments are weak.

The Pasco County Republican argues the federal government cannot afford to provide health coverage indefinitely to low-income residents. He may be right, and that's one of the reasons Scott's endorsement is not open-ended.

But Weatherford fails to acknowledge that the government is already paying for the medical needs of the nation's poorest residents, and Medicaid expansion is a way to control those costs with preventive care instead of emergency room treatment.

He also fails to acknowledge that safety net hospitals are about to lose their funding. And federal taxes paid by Florida citizens are in danger of being redistributed elsewhere. And the House's bare bones alternative introduced last week will actually cost more per capita, and cover a fraction of the residents.

Weatherford is ignoring reality while riding on his ideological high horse.

Now maybe this was all a ploy to establish his conservative credentials, and he will come around to a more realistic Senate proposal in the coming weeks.

Or maybe he really doesn't see that his position could mean calamity for Florida residents and hospitals, and it will achieve nothing of substance because the federal money he wants to turn down will just be spent elsewhere.

Philosophies are fine, and principles are important. But people are more meaningful than ideals, and this is not an issue in need of a line in the sand.

If health care is not expanded in Florida, it will be Weatherford's call.

House Speaker Will Weatherford in control of Medicaid decision 04/13/13 [Last modified: Saturday, April 13, 2013 7:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility

    World

    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia

    World

    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber

    World

    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]