Monday, August 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Math for accepting Medicaid only gets better

As the economy struggled, Florida deeply cut spending on public schools, higher education, land preservation, the courts and every other corner of discretionary spending. Now the state could save $430 million spent on a state health care program if legislators would agree to accept billions of federal dollars and expand Medicaid. But even those savings, which could be spent on other priorities, may not sway House Speaker Will Weatherford and other Republicans who refuse to accept federal Medicaid expansion money.

This latest wrinkle in the debate over whether Florida should expand Medicaid to adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line adds to a powerful argument that Republican lawmakers refuse to consider. Florida spends $430 million annually in its Medically Needy program that helps low-income patients pay for expensive medical conditions. The state covers 42 percent of the cost for the program. But under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would take responsibility for 100 percent of the costs of covering this population for the first three years and no less than 90 percent in later years.

State budget analysts didn't include the $430 million annual savings in their calculations because the impact of the Affordable Care Act was unclear. Since then, federal officials have confirmed that the patients under Florida's Medically Needy program would be eligible for coverage under Medicaid expansion and the generous level of federal funding.

Still, Weatherford and other Republican leaders haven't budged. The Wesley Chapel Republican continues to support a plan authored by Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, that provides insufficient payments for a modest portion of poor adults to buy private health coverage. Florida Health Choices Plus would be paid for with state taxpayer dollars at an estimated cost of $237 million per year. The plan forgoes $51 billion in federal funding over 10 years that flows with Medicaid expansion, leaves hundreds of thousands of poor Floridians without health coverage and forces Florida taxpayers to continue paying $430 million annually for the state's Medically Needy program. The math does not add up.

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, argues that the federal government cannot be trusted to hold up its part of the deal in the long run. But Floridians expect Washington to follow federal law and meet its commitments, just as it has on Social Security and Medicare. State taxpayers shouldn't have to watch the money they send to Washington go to other states to expand their medical safety nets and boost their economies.

Republicans in the state Senate and Gov. Rick Scott, while no fans of federal health care reform, have been willing to put their political differences aside to stand for what is best for the state. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is proposing a reasonable alternative to Medicaid expansion that would use the federal funding to pay for private insurance for the poor. There were plenty of good reasons to support Negron's option before the Medically Needy savings were discovered. Now there are 430 million reasons more next year, and another 430 million a year after that, and another 430 million a year after that, and …

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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...
Updated: 3 hours ago
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