State Senate President Jim Scott, a Republican from Fort Lauderdale, says Gov. Lawton Chiles needn't bother calling a special session of the Legislature on Medicaid. If Scott and other Republicans still are determined to block reasonable efforts to expand health care for uninsured Floridians, the governor's plans for a special session probably are futile, but that's nothing for Scott to be proud of.
The governor wants a waiver to the current Medicaid plan to expand health care. He says the waiver also would bring more Medicaid money to Florida after Congress trims the program's annual allocation and turns it into a block grant. Without it, he estimates, the state could lose $9-billion over seven years.
But after a trip to Washington, Scott says the governor is wasting time and taxpayer money to call a session. He says congressional leaders told him states with Medicaid waivers in place shouldn't expect better treatment when block grants are allocated. Besides, the Senate repeatedly has rejected Chiles' efforts to expand health care to Florida's uninsured, and it isn't about to approve another subsidy now.
If the waiver has no chance in the Legislature, Chiles shouldn't waste time or money calling lawmakers back to Tallahassee. It only would be a spectacle. Instead he should focus on our congressional delegation, continuing his lobbying efforts to assure that Florida receives a fair deal in Washington. Now that Scott is acting as de facto governor, he should get busy lobbying for Florida, too.
First, though, Scott and other state Republicans should decide whether their allegiance is to their party or to residents of Florida. They say they have been assured that Florida will get its fair share of Medicaid dollars, but that seems to be based upon little more than pats on the head from Republican big shots in Washington.
The state's congressional delegation is on the front line in this fight. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, chairs a health subcommittee charged with devising a formula for distributing Medicaid money. Here, too, Republican members will have to choose: Are they Republicans or Floridians first?