Monday, January 22, 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: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Something is seriously amiss at Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource agencies, which receive millions in federal and state money to match unemployed workers with local employers. First, the agencies appear to be taking credit — and money — for job placements...
Updated: 7 hours ago

A Chicago Tribune editorial: Shut down this shutdown habit

"Shutting down the government of the United States of America should never ever be a bargaining chip for any issue. Period. It should be to governing as chemical warfare is to real warfare. It should be banned."— Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., addressing ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18