As the House heads toward a historic vote on health care reform as early as Sunday, all Florida Republicans remain opposed and all but two Democrats are firmly in support. But a new analysis released Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee suggests Florida lawmakers who vote against the reforms are acting against the best interests of their constituents.
The analysis offers a district-by-district assessment of how citizens would be affected by the health care legislation. For example:
• In the 10th District represented by Republican C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores, up to 18,000 small businesses in Pinellas could qualify for tax credits covering up to half the cost of providing health insurance. Yet Young is proud of his opposition to reform.
• In the 9th District represented by Republican Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, some 78,000 residents in North Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties who are uninsured would get coverage. Yet Bilirakis remains opposed to reform.
• In the 5th District represented by Republican Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville, the 22,600 Medicare recipients who hit the prescription drug doughnut hole would see that hole closed over the next decade. Yet Brown-Waite remains a vocal critic of reform.
If Tampa Bay Republicans focused more on the impact of health care reform on the residents of their districts instead of partisan politics in Washington, they would be voting differently. Instead they are lost causes, and voters should ask why they are obstructionists.
Reps. Allen Boyd of Monticello and Suzanne Kosmas of New Smyrna Beach were the only two Florida Democrats who voted last fall against the original House health care reform bill. While both should reconsider, the focus is particularly on Kosmas, a freshman in a Central Florida suburban district. She has been lobbied personally by President Barack Obama, and 85,000 uninsured residents in her district would get coverage. With Republicans refusing to budge, Kosmas is among those House Democrats the president needs to persuade to pass historic reform.
As the final health care legislation comes into sharper focus, the clearer it becomes that Republicans such as U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Gov. Charlie Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum are on the wrong side and not advocating for the best interests of all Floridians. The Medicare prescription doughnut hole would gradually close for 313,000 Floridians. Some 488,000 small Florida businesses would be eligible for tax credits for providing health insurance. More than 1.3 million young Floridians would be able to obtain coverage under their parents' health plans, and more than 2.7 million uninsured Floridians would receive coverage.
For Floridians, the numbers show health care reform would result in more available and affordable coverage while lowering the federal deficit. It's the empty rhetoric from the Florida politicians who oppose it that does not add up.