Monday, May 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: A million still waiting for Tallahassee to act on health coverage

The Florida Legislature opens its annual session today with Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State address and speeches from legislative leaders, but don't expect to hear a peep about the state's most important issue. They hope everyone forgets about the 1 million uninsured residents who would have health coverage if legislators would accept billions in federal Medicaid money. Floridians should keep reminding them of the sound moral and economic arguments for extending health coverage, even if they don't want to hear it in Tallahassee.

Now 25 states, including eight with Republican governors, have found a way to take the federal money and extend health coverage to more of their residents. The Obama administration approved a plan last month that is embraced by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, and expands Medicaid but requires small co-payments and premiums based on income. Other states such as Arkansas have won permission to use the money to subsidize the cost of private insurance. Yet Florida remains stuck in neutral with a governor who refuses to lead and a House speaker who refuses to listen.

This time last year, Scott had just won federal approval to move all Medicaid patients into managed care and had endorsed taking the Medicaid expansion money. Then House Speaker Will Weatherford poisoned the debate by using his opening day speech to rip the expansion as a "social experiment" and leaving no room for compromise. The Senate still voted 38-1 for a workable plan to use the expansion money to subsidize private insurance, but Weatherford refused to take up the legislation in the final days of the session.

Today, uninsured Floridians are even worse off. Scott won't reaffirm his support for Medicaid expansion. Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, points to problems with the debut of the federal marketplace and suggests the Senate is no longer interested in the issue. Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, repeats the same illogical arguments he made a year ago. They complain the Obama administration is inflexible when it has been flexible in approving reasonable alternatives in Michigan, Arkansas and elsewhere. What the administration won't do — and shouldn't — is tighten the eligibility standards as Weatherford suggests and tell 400,000 uninsured Floridians they could not benefit from the Medicaid expansion money. That would be cruel and unusual punishment, but this is the same state government that is violating federal rules by limiting emergency room visits by Medicaid patients.

The case for Florida to accept billions in federal money over the next decade has gotten stronger. It would create thousands of jobs, and the federal government still would pay the entire cost for three years and never less than 90 percent of the bill after that. The NAACP, the Florida League of Women Voters, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the health care industry support the expansion. What is lacking is the fortitude in Tallahassee to stand up to the Republican leadership. The governor won't do it, so Floridians have to raise their voices. And if there is no action on Medicaid expansion this spring, voters can respond appropriately in November.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the stateís 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice theyíve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Childrenís Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institutionís lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburgís 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18