Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Denying health coverage isn't progress

By refusing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature left a million poor residents without health care coverage and turned away billions in federal money. Senate President Don Gaetz sent a list of questions to the Obama administration this summer that ask for more flexibility and has not received a response. The administration should answer with a resounding "no," because states should not be given a loophole that allows them to deprive some needy residents of coverage.

The reason the state rejected an estimated $51 billion in federal money from Medicaid expansion over 10 years was because House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, does not want to cover working poor adults. So Gaetz wants Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to let states only partially expand Medicaid, so several hundred thousand uninsured Florida adults could be left out. Gaetz also asks that states be allowed to impose new cost-sharing and premium payments on poor Medicaid recipients, which is now strictly limited under federal law.

Gaetz sent the letter in late June and has yet to receive a reply, which gives Republicans the chance to huff about foot-dragging by the Obama administration. It's true that "no" should not take long to type.

There isn't any reason to trust that Republican legislators who have put ideology before providing their poorest citizens with health care coverage will do right by this vulnerable population when given more discretion. Weatherford's House-passed plan covered about 120,000 poor adults — nowhere near the 1 million Floridians eligible for expanded Medicaid — with a state subsidy of $2,000 per year, far less than the average cost of annual premiums in 2012 of $5,600 for single coverage. Weatherford stood by this plan even after the business lobbying groups urged that he approve expanded Medicaid for the jobs and economic activity it would bring.

If states are allowed to shift costs and premiums to Medicaid recipients, it may put coverage and health care out of reach for the poor. And a partial expansion would leave some people out, undermining the ACA's goal of nearly universal coverage.

The Obama administration already is being flexible in its interpretation of the federal law, letting states fashion their own approach to Medicaid expansion and the online health insurance exchanges as long as the program's overall purposes are met. A plan passed by the state Senate to use the federal money to expand coverage using private insurers instead of the Medicaid program probably would have passed muster in Washington. But what Gaetz is asking for would give state's too much discretion to deny poor people health coverage.

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Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County transit referendum that has made the November ballot is significantly stronger than two efforts that failed to reach the end zone in the past decade. The one-cent sales surtax would generate enough money to meaningfully improv...
Published: 08/09/18
Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

The fight for medical marijuana in Florida should have ended with the resounding 2016 vote authorizing it in the state Constitution. Instead, the battle for access drags on, with Attorney General Pam Bondi waging the latest round in a lengthy legal b...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

They reach from South Florida to Tampa, from a high school to a college campus, from troubled kids to troubled parents. But there is a common thread connecting these tragedies: Florida has a mental health crisis. Addressing it would require spending ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

A proposal to use local money to ferry workers to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa always has been a questionable idea. The loss of nearly $5 million in federal money toward the project makes it all the more suspect. It’s time the ferry supporters off...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Blood on the streets of Chicago

Blood on the streets of Chicago

A hot summer weekend, when Chicago should be at its most livable, brings an undercurrent of dread and horror to this city. Summer is block party season, beach season, baseball season. But in some neighborhoods, summer is killing season — when armed g...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

A well-meaning but poorly designed effort to keep tobacco from children could sink a niche industry and end Tampa’s fabled history as a cigar-making capital. The Food and Drug Administration needs to recognize not all tobacco products are alike...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/13/18
Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

The St. Petersburg City Council has listened to the concerns of constituents and forged a compromise on where to install a signature public art piece in the new Pier District. Plans had called for an imposing aerial net sculpture to soar above Spa Be...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/07/18