Monday, April 23, 2018
Opinion

Column: Medicaid expansion not in Florida's interest

The United States Supreme Court struck down a portion of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act that mandated a massive expansion of Medicaid, and instead allowed each state to make a choice based on what is in its best interest. This means the Florida House and Senate will have an important decision to make this spring. Our actions have serious implications for the fiscal future of our state. Florida must decide if we will expand government-run health care for Floridians at a cost of $3.8 billion over the next 10 years.

Accordingly, both the House and Senate put together special bipartisan committees of legislators with a broad array of expertise on health care, insurance and financial matters. They met over the last few months to hear the facts. The Florida House was the first to identify the major flaws in the proposal. The committee recommended rejecting expansion. This week, the Senate did the same. Both the House and Senate have indicated a willingness to look for better options for our state.

We can all agree that Florida's existing Medicaid program plays a vital role in the safety net of millions of Floridians. As speaker, I am committed to ensuring that the existing safety net is there for those who are in need. However, I oppose Medicaid expansion because I do not believe the "take it or leave it," "all or nothing," inflexible approach of President Obama's Medicaid expansion strengthens the safety net; instead, this approach fosters more government dependency. According to estimates, 82 percent of the expansion population is not children, the disabled, or the elderly, but able-bodied adults. While the federal government promises to absorb the cost for the first several years, I am not confident it will be able to sustain that commitment in the long term. Given the track record of the federal government, which hasn't balanced a budget in years, I believe Florida will have to make hard choices that would potentially put future funding for our schools, public safety, and protection of our beaches and springs at risk and could mean increased taxes on hard-working Florida families.

Furthermore, the existing proposal ignores the stunning levels of fraud embedded in the Medicaid system, which experts estimate is more than $1 billion each year.

Equally as important, today's discussion ignores serious problems in the program's ability to provide quality care and also remain affordable. Florida doesn't have enough doctors to serve the expanded population, and quality of patient care will be put at risk. Medicaid's clinical outcomes are also concerning. According to a Journal of the National Cancer Institute study of Florida Medicaid patients, 6 percent were more likely to have prostate cancer when diagnosed than uninsured patients, 31 percent more likely to have late-stage breast cancer, and 81 percent more likely to have late-stage melanoma. Many studies suggest Medicaid patients routinely have worse outcomes when compared to those with private health insurance.

Although I personally oppose the expansion of Medicaid, I also recognize it's not enough to simply say no. The state has an obligation to investigate and pursue viable alternatives that will be in the best interest of all Floridians. And that's exactly what we're doing in the Florida House.

What's clear is that the inflexible Medicaid expansion plan that disregards Florida's responsibility to deal with our unique state needs and priorities, funded with inflated, unreliable federal spending is not the answer. The Florida House is focused on creating opportunities so that Floridians can receive a quality education, find a job and receive quality health care. By continuing to make this a priority while also working to strengthen the existing Medicaid program to ensure care for those who really need it, we can make sure Floridians have meaningful choices for health care regardless of their income or the challenges they face.

Will Weatherford is a Republican from Wesley Chapel and speaker of the Florida House. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

Comments
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18