Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Scott takes right step with Medicaid expansion

Gov. Rick Scott made the right decision by endorsing the expansion of Medicaid that would provide health care to more than 1 million uninsured Floridians, including perhaps 225,000 in Tampa Bay. Give the governor credit for looking beyond his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, negotiating with the Obama administration and making the best decision for this state. Now the Republican-led Legislature should be just as pragmatic, follow the governor's lead and approve the expansion.

The importance of accepting the Medicaid expansion cannot be understated. Florida has roughly 4 million uninsured residents who deserve access to health care, and the cost of treating them is passed on to everyone in higher insurance premiums and hospital bills. Economic studies indicate the Medicaid expansion will create more than 71,000 jobs. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of the expansion for the first three years starting in 2014, then gradually drop to 90 percent by 2020. Florida, which has one of the least generous Medicaid programs, will be one of the states that benefits the most from the expansion and infusion of billions of federal dollars.

Scott withheld his support for the expansion until the Obama administration granted the state two waivers to essentially privatize Medicaid statewide and place all recipients into managed care programs. The key conditional waiver came Wednesday afternoon, and the governor endorsed the Medicaid expansion hours later. The transformation of Medicaid will have to be carefully monitored and managed. A five-county experimental program was not encouraging, with some health plans dropping out of the experiment, patients complaining of poor service and questionable taxpayer savings. Lawmakers say they have fixed some problems, and our hope is it will work better for patients and save more money as it is rolled out statewide with millions of additional patients and many more providers. The rising cost of the existing Medicaid program is unsustainable for Florida taxpayers, and the quickly evolving health care economy is forcing changes throughout.

Now Scott has aligned himself with a half-dozen other Republican governors who have chosen pragmatism over ideological purity in accepting the Medicaid expansion. They include governors such as Jan Brewer of Arizona, John Kasich of Ohio and Susana Martinez of New Mexico. Those are hardly wild-eyed liberals. On the other side are the extremists who remain glued to the Republican fringe such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Louisana Gov. Bobby Jindal. They are not the future of the Republican Party, and Scott recognizes that Floridians expect a more commonsense approach.

There should be no gloating or partisan sniping about the governor's qualified support of Medicaid expansion from Democrats, which would be counterproductive. The goal is to get the expansion approved by the Legislature, and that will take more work by the governor and lawmakers from both parties to convince Republican leaders it is the responsible approach. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and other Republican House leaders remain particularly skeptical, and they have to be persuaded that it would be irresponsible to leave billions of federal dollars on the table and more than a million Floridians uninsured.

Scott embraced the Medicaid expansion after getting what he wanted from Washington, and he still would require state lawmakers to reapprove the expansion after three years. Even with those caveats, the governor will take some heat from the conservative wing of his party that got him elected. But he pleased the moderate middle of the electorate he will need to get re-elected by taking the most positive, forward-looking step of his administration.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

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Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17