Saturday, February 24, 2018
Politics

Romano to lawmakers: You know what you need to do on Medicaid

Let's hope they come with real explanations.

When state legislators get together Monday in Tallahassee to discuss Medicaid expansion in Florida, let's hope they don't talk in vague generalities and meaningless buzzwords.

That nonsense may play well on talk radio, but it's beneath the office of elected officials. It is the language of those with an abundance of fury and a lack of facts.

They talk of being skeptical. They talk of their concern for long-term viability. They talk of everything except the actual problem and a potential solution.

Wanna hear two issues they never talk about?

• The most recent U.S. Census revealed one out of every four Floridians was uninsured. That means 48 states are doing better than Florida when it comes to health insurance.

• Studies indicate Florida could receive $26 billion in federal funds under Medicaid expansion, and be responsible for $3 billion in the next decade. No matter how you frame it, that sounds like an attractive rate of return on an investment.

So let's hope they're listening to the people who matter.

When the cameras are turned off and the office doors slam shut, let's hope our lawmakers are not listening to the whispers of special interest groups and party ideologues.

Because the truth is the majority of people in this state and this country are in favor of an overhaul to our health care system.

Polls show it. The November election showed it. Specifically, a pointless anti-Obamacare amendment rejected by Florida voters showed it.

And it's not just the average constituent back home sending this message. Health care officials throughout the state have all but begged legislators to expand Medicaid.

Whether you agree with the Affordable Care Act or not, it is now the law of the land. And it will change the way hospitals get paid in this country.

If the Legislature fails to approve Medicaid expansion, hospitals will no longer be reimbursed for billions of dollars in uncompensated emergency care.

Frankly, this should be an easy call for Republican lawmakers. Gov. Rick Scott has already done the hard work for them. The governor is as aligned with conservative ideals as anyone, and even he has capitulated.

By supporting Medicaid expansion, Scott has provided cover to the rest of the party. Even diehard conservatives can say they were following the governor on this one.

So let's hope Democrats stop being so petty.

When the tea party governor embraces part of the health care reform he once famously despised, let's hope liberals have the good grace to accept his explanation at face value.

You can't whine about Republicans refusing to compromise, and then smirk or sneer when one of them agrees to meet you halfway.

Certainly, Gov. Scott's about-face on Medicaid carries the strong whiff of a man desperate for re-election. (Not to mention his newfound love of teachers, and his sudden recognition that election reforms are necessary.)

But reacting cynically to the governor's reversal does no one any good. In fact, it smacks of the same type of opportunism that you're assigning to the governor.

If Republican lawmakers have doubts about Medicaid expansion, Democrats should not attack their motives or their character. Turning this into a partisan fight only lessens the chance of an amicable solution.

After all, the stats favor the left in this battle. The number of uninsured Floridians cannot be denied. The vast sum of federal tax dollars on the table is real. The potential cost to hospitals is dramatic. The polls on this issue are legit.

And that doesn't even get into the argument of compassion, or the question of how the world's most advanced nation can't afford to provide health care to all of its citizens.

So when lawmakers meet in Tallahassee on Monday, let's hope they do the right thing.

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