John Romano: No facts, no logic, no reality in Will Weatherford's Medicaid stance

Published Feb. 11, 2014

I think Will Weatherford's heart was in the right place. It was his facts, theories, justifications and conclusions that seemed to wander off aimlessly.

The state House speaker's rationale for rejecting Medicaid expansion on Tuesday was not just debatable, it was nonsensical.

Seriously, what was he trying to say?

He provided zero facts. Zero alternatives. Zero acknowledgement that Florida hospitals were on the hook for $2.8 billion in uncompensated care last year.

He cited no studies, passed off theories as reality, and failed to offer even a glimmer of hope for a state that has one of the highest ratios of uninsured citizens in the nation.

His overriding concern — that government health costs are already out of control — is certainly legitimate and worthy of discussion.

But you cannot enter that discussion without conceding the current system is also too costly, inefficient and illogical.

These politicians who act horrified that we may actually use federal funds to provide health care for poverty-level adults are being shamefully disingenuous.

They know we're already spending federal tax dollars on uninsured health care. We're just doing it haphazardly in emergency rooms instead of offering sensible care at a general practitioner's office.

Not to mention, those hospital debts that aren't covered by federal money end up being absorbed by the rest of us through our own higher medical bills.

That is why change is needed. And that's one of the goals behind Medicaid expansion.

It is an attempt to divert federal funds from costly emergency room visits and redirect those dollars to preventive care that may actually save money and lives in the long run.

Can anybody guarantee it will work that way?

Absolutely not.

But doesn't it seem more logical than what we're doing now? Doesn't it at least seem like an admirable attempt?

Weatherford has to know this. Even worse, he has to know that passing on Medicaid expansion could have disastrous consequences for residents in Florida. Because these reforms are on the way whether we're on board or not.

You see, a lot of those federal funds now going to hospitals such as Tampa General and Bayfront Medical will soon be used for the expansion of Medicaid nationally. So if Florida does not go along with the plan, this state is going to lose on every level.

Hospitals? They could be bankrupted without those uncompensated care funds.

Your tax dollars? They'll be spent on Medicaid patients in dozens of other states.

Florida's uninsured adults? Yup, they'll still be uninsured.

And yet, Weatherford did not touch on any of these issues in his speech on the opening day of the Legislative session. Instead, he scrambled to take Gov. Rick Scott's vacated seat on the sputtering tea party bandwagon.

Weatherford talked of the need for safety nets. He told a heartbreaking story of how a safety net provided care for his late brother and absorbed outrageous hospital bills for his parents. He said he supported safety nets for the sickest and weakest among us.

And then he suggested governments shouldn't be paying for those safety nets.

That isn't a solution, it's a fantasy.

Weatherford is simply spouting the conservative hard line without any concern for real-life ramifications. He's putting political principles ahead of people's lives.

That's either incredibly naive or terribly cynical.

Here's hoping for naive.