Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Weatherford should allow open vote on Medicaid expansion

Florida has three days to measure up to Arkansas. In Arkansas, a Republican-led legislature and a Democratic governor agreed to accept federal Medicaid expansion money to help buy private insurance for low-income residents. In Florida, the state Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted for a similar plan that has been endorsed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott. It is a conservative, fiscally responsible approach, and the House should approve it before the regular session ends Friday.

The Senate's 38-1 vote to accept billions in federal Medicaid money to help provide health coverage to nearly 1 million residents sends a powerful bipartisan message and reflects mainstream Florida. The Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, the health care industry and a majority of state voters favor taking the federal money. There is still time for House Speaker Will Weatherford and his allies to recognize this is a pragmatic solution and accept this compromise without jeopardizing their conservative credentials.

The financial case for accepting the Medicaid money is strong. Florida would receive $51 billion over the next decade, and the federal government would pay the entire cost of the expansion for the first three years. Washington also would pick up the cost of the Medically Needy program, which costs the state $430 million a year. The millions the state would save could be spent on other priorities or cover the state's modest matching costs in future years. Accepting the money also makes it less likely Florida employers with 50 or more workers that don't offer health insurance will face tax penalties under the Affordable Care Act. This should appeal to conservative legislators who pride themselves on being fiscally conservative and business-friendly.

The positive effect on Floridians is just as compelling. The Senate proposal would initially cover more than 438,000 low-income residents next year and roughly 1 million over the next decade. Health insurance leads to better access to preventive care and a healthier, more productive workforce. And the Medicaid expansion would create thousands of jobs as the health care industry expands to accommodate newly insured residents.

The arguments against accepting the Medicaid expansion money from Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and his Republican allies are not persuasive. They criticize Medicaid as expensive and inefficient, but the Senate plan would use the federal money to buy private coverage. They complain about the federal deficit and distrust Washington, but there is no reason to believe the federal government would renege on its Medicaid commitment. They oppose providing coverage to low-income adults without children, suggesting those adults should work harder so they can afford insurance. Hundreds of thousands of those Floridians are working hard at low-paying jobs that don't provide coverage, and they deserve access to health care as much as their better-paid neighbors.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, crafted a reasonable alternative to expanding Medicaid that still allows Florida to accept the federal money and cover nearly 1 million residents with private insurance. If Weatherford allowed Republican House members to vote their conscience, there is every reason to believe enough mainstream Republicans would join Democrats to approve the legislation. Democrats frustrated over the deadlock on Tuesday afternoon slowed down the House, forcing every bill to be read in full. Maybe that got Weatherford's attention. Does the first House speaker from Pasco County in more than a century really want to be the one who turned down $51 billion and turned his back on Floridians?

If the Legislature rejects the Medicaid expansion money, the difference between Florida and Arkansas will be clear — and it won't favor Florida.

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Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

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Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

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The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18