Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Weatherford keeps 150,000 in bay area from getting health coverage

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford is responsible for more than 150,000 of the poorest residents in Tampa Bay being cruelly excluded from health care coverage. While most of the region's uninsured are now mulling over their multiple options for health insurance coverage on the state online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, Weatherford's indefensible rejection of Medicaid expansion means the state's poor are out of luck. This gap in coverage is really a gap in compassion.

The health care reform law was designed to provide access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage to nearly everyone. The uninsured would shop for policies on the online marketplaces, which opened Oct. 1. People making between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level would receive subsidies to help pay for coverage. Those making below the federal poverty line would be covered by the expansion of Medicaid, a federal-state program of health insurance for the poor.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the Affordable Care Act but allowed states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion. Florida and 25 other states, largely in the South and with Republican governors or Republican-controlled legislatures, declined to expand Medicaid. It was a heartless attack on 8 million of the nation's poor who are now stranded without coverage. They won't qualify for subsidized insurance on the marketplaces because they earn too little. The irony is that these states make up about half of the U.S. population but have two-thirds of the country's poor. It is their residents who would have benefited the most.

When the numbers are crunched, expanding Medicaid brings a financial windfall. The federal government picks up 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and no less than 90 percent in later years. Florida would have received $51 billion in federal funds over 10 years, a figure that got the attention of Gov. Rick Scott and Senate President Don Gaetz, both Republicans, who would have taken Medicaid expansion dollars. But Weatherford, a Republican from Wesley Chapel, refused to let the House even consider a bill passed 38-1 by the Senate to use the Medicaid money to help buy private insurance for the poor.

His decision leaves a million Floridians without Medicaid coverage. A New York Times analysis finds that among those falling through the Medicaid gap are 52,018 adults in Pinellas, 59,295 in Hillsborough, 29,367 in Pasco and 10,113 in Hernando counties. That's more than 150,000 people in the Tampa Bay area who would have coverage if Weatherford was not standing in the way. They earn paychecks that just aren't big enough to cross the federal poverty line. They are cashiers, restaurant staff, retail clerks, home health aides and cleaners. Florida is awash in these kinds of low-wage jobs. The people who do them work hard and have little to show for it. Now Weatherford's stubborn opposition to Medicaid expansion robs them of the medical security the law was designed to bring to all families. Florida is a smarter, more compassionate state than that.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18