Sunday, August 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Gov. Rick Scott fails all Floridians on health care

Gov. Rick Scott's cruel indifference to Floridians who can't afford medical care illustrates why he is the state's worst governor in the last half-century. He has no empathy for its people, no credible explanation for his position and no interest in reasonable compromise. The conservative Republican prefers to wage an ideological fight with the Obama administration without regard for the human and financial costs, and that is morally and economically indefensible.

It comes as no surprise that Scott renounced his support last week for accepting billions in federal Medicaid expansion money. He has been silent on it for months, assuming the issue would fade and the Legislature would not touch it. But opinion polls show voters support taking the federal money, and a broad coalition of businesses offered a sensible plan to use the money to subsidize the cost of private insurance for more than 800,000 low-income Floridians. The Senate unanimously approved a state budget that includes the bipartisan proposal, the more conservative House refused to include the Medicaid expansion money, and the pressure was on the governor to provide some leadership.

Instead, Scott reversed himself. The governor who said two years ago that he would accept the federal money because he could not "in good conscience deny the uninsured access to care'' had a change of heart and opposes it. Scott says the Obama administration cannot be trusted to follow through, but he is the one who has failed to act in good faith.

Remember that Scott opposed the Affordable Care Act that includes Medicaid expansion when he first ran for governor in 2010. Then he announced he would accept the Medicaid expansion money in 2013, just hours after the Obama administration agreed to waivers the governor sought to transform Medicaid into a privatized managed care system. Yet Scott's silence was deafening in the following weeks as two conservative Republicans from Pasco County, then-House Speaker Will Weatherford and top lieutenant Richard Corcoran, refused to let the House adopt the plan that was passed 38-1 by the Senate. If there is a trust issue, it is in the Governor's Mansion.

Scott's excuse for changing his position now on Medicaid expansion money is that the Obama administration says it will stop sending more than $1 billion a year to the state's Low Income Pool this summer. That money goes to hospitals and community health centers to help cover the cost of treating the uninsured and the underinsured, and the federal government made clear last year it would extend the payments for one final year ending this June. Yet Scott included that federal money in his 2015-16 proposed budget as though it would magically keep coming. If there is a lack of integrity in funding health care programs, it is in the Governor's Mansion.

The governor is pushing $673 million in tax cuts, and two-thirds of that total would come from reducing a tax on cable, satellite and cellphone services. Annual savings on those services for a typical family: $43. Yet Scott refuses to embrace a health care plan that would bring several billion federal dollars each year to Florida, subsidize health insurance by far more than $43 a year for low-income residents, and save state taxpayers more than $1.7 billion over five years that is spent on health care. If there is a failure to responsibly manage the public's money, it is in the Governor's Mansion.

After Scott narrowly won re-election just five months ago, he called for an end to partisanship and promised to help Floridians live the American dream. That dream includes good health and access to affordable health care. Yet Scott has broken his promise to accept Medicaid expansion money. His proposed state budget included other health care money that the federal government long ago told him would not be coming. The state surgeon general chosen by Scott would not even offer his opinion last week of the Senate plan to use Medicaid expansion money when pressed by frustrated senators, who then declined to confirm his appointment.

This is a pivotal moment for Florida and for hundreds of thousands of residents desperate for access to health care. The financial and moral arguments for accepting the Medicaid expansion money are strong. The governor will not lead, so he has to be led. That leadership has to come from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, hospitals and other health care advocates, the League of Women Voters, AARP, Senate Republicans and Democrats and every pragmatic business and voter who recognizes this is in the best interest of our state and our residents.

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Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
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...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
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