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  1. Florida Politics

John Romano: Florida's children sacrificed for pennies

Published Dec. 8, 2015

This is what we brag about in Florida:

• A tax cut on cellphone bills that saves residents about $1.70 per month.

• A rollback on vehicle registration fees that saves a car owner about $2 a month.

• Tax cuts on private plane repairs, yacht repairs, hunting and fishing licenses and gun club memberships.

And this is what we try to hide in Florida:

• A scheme to bounce thousands of sick and desperate kids out of the state's Children's Medical Services (CMS) program.

• An unacknowledged moratorium on admissions to CMS, including newborns with severe cardiac ailments.

• The elimination of more than 700 Department of Health positions.

This shameful reduction of care for medically fragile kids was revealed by a recent Miami Herald investigation that should be stunning, but is pathetically predictable.

This is what happens when you continually cut taxes for corporations and millionaires. This is what happens when you cost the state hundreds of millions in revenue just so you can brag about cutting individual taxes roughly equivalent to a cup of coffee a month.

In the end, this is what happens when you care more about your political aspirations than the state's most vulnerable residents.

The Herald report detailed how state legislators passed a law in 2011 that severely undercut funding for CMS, and subsequently led health department officials to come up with a plan that has purged 9,000 children from the program in the past six months.

This would include children who are going blind. Or have cleft palates. Or HIV.

What's worse is this wasn't some bumbling mistake. The Herald discovered a CMS memo that spelled out the proposed purge as part of a three-year strategic plan.

The idea was that these poverty-level children could be reassigned to Medicaid, which would save the state money even if it guaranteed the level of care would be far less.

This plan came just months after a circuit judge already ruled legislators had violated federal law by artificially setting the state's Medicaid reimbursement rate too low, which effectively chased doctors from the plan and put impoverished children at risk.

Nice legacy, huh?

You may recall earlier this year state Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, asking his colleagues to go to war with him against expanding Medicaid.

He called it questionable care, and said you were 97 percent more likely to die on Medicaid. He said he would "fight with my last breath to keep you off Medicaid.''

And all that time, the Legislature was forcing some of Florida's most severely disabled children off the CMS plan and into Medicaid.

So, now that you will soon be House speaker, what are you going to do about this, Rep. Corcoran?

This is not an argument about "able-bodied'' adults without jobs or health insurance. This is not an argument about people abusing drugs, tobacco or alcohol.

This is about helpless children with the odds stacked against them.

Do we really want to be the state that cares more about eliminating manufacturing taxes than caring for newborns? Do we want to be the state that thinks corporate giveaways are more valuable than children's lives?

Is this the Florida we want to live in?

For, if it is, this is our shame.

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