Sunday, January 21, 2018
Politics

Romano: Medicaid expansion creates jobs, saves money, but Florida still doesn't care

At some point, facts have to matter, right?

Conspiracy theories and partisan hooey might be great for radio shows and message boards, but shouldn't elected officials be basing their decisions on real data?

Because, I've got to tell you, it seems our leaders in Tallahassee are either too dense or too ideologically crazed to accept what is quickly becoming overwhelming evidence on the benefits of Medicaid expansion.

Let me explain:

A new analysis released by the nation's largest philanthropic health organization suggests that Medicaid expansion not only provides increased health care for the needy, but it actually saves money for states that have embraced the concept.

The report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation highlighted comprehensive studies done in 16 states that determined expansion will help state budgets. Not for a majority of those states, or even most of those states. This was true for all 16 states.

One of the major factors cited was the number of jobs created by the infusion of federal money and the subsequent tax benefits accrued from a larger work force.

So if you break that down, you might reasonably assume expanded Medicaid will:

Save lives.

Save money.

Create jobs.

Pffft, why would Florida want any part of THAT?

"It's puzzling to me that more states are not interested in investigating the overwhelming practical benefits of expansion,'' said Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and one of the authors of the study. "I understand some legislators might have philosophical beliefs that make it hard to accept it, but there have been enough creative waiver proposals to get around those philosophical differences.''

In other words, if you're going to say "No'' to Medicaid expansion, you at least have to be prepared to say "Yes'' to an alternative plan.

Unless, of course, you're a Florida legislator.

Around here, you need only make vague and ominous warnings to torpedo a plan that will keep billions of dollars from flowing into Florida during the next decade.

Outgoing House Speaker Will Weatherford led this charge by expressing his skepticism that the federal government would follow through on a promise to pay between 90 and 100 percent of Medicaid expenses for the first 10 years. He didn't cite any data or facts to support his argument, he merely threw it into the arena as if it were a given.

But this recent study looked at congressional decisions since 1980 and determined that whenever the federal government needed to rein in Medicaid spending, it routinely found other cost-saving options rather than cutting the percentage of funds allocated to states.

"Governors from both parties fiercely resist the idea of Medicaid cuts,'' Dorn said. "So it is the very last place federal policymakers will ever look to cut.''

For a state that boasts about giving tax breaks (i.e. corporate welfare) to businesses on the vague promise of job creation, it is almost inconceivable to think we wouldn't invest in proven job creation through health coverage.

And yet Florida lawmakers have not only rebuffed Medicaid expansion, they don't even talk about it any longer.

Ignoring fact-based studies is not simply partisan politics. When the stakes are this high, it is deplorable politics.

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