The Florida Legislature does not formally open its 60-day session until today, and already House Republicans have drawn a partisan line against expanding Medicaid. A select committee voted along party lines Monday to not even bother writing legislation that would enable the expansion. This was an arrogant power play by two Pasco County legislators, House Speaker Will Weatherford and committee chairman Richard Corcoran, who are not representing the best interests of their districts or their state on health care reform.
Weatherford and Corcoran repeated the Republican Party line that the federal government cannot be counted on to fulfill the Affordable Care Act's requirements to pay for the Medicaid expansion. The federal law requires Washington to pay 100 percent of the cost of the expansion for three years, then gradually reduces that commitment to 90 percent in future years. This smacks of picking and choosing which federal laws to embrace and which to ignore. The lawmakers also cite sequestration as evidence that Congress cannot be counted upon to prudently manage the nation's finances. That comparison ignores that members of their own party are refusing to act responsibly in Washington and consider a mix of more revenue and spending cuts to reduce the federal deficit.
Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, made a number of irresponsible arguments to justify the committee's heavy handed effort to end the debate over Medicaid expansion before the session even starts. He compared relying on the federal government to financing a home with Bernie Madoff, the convicted swindler. He claimed to be looking out for senior citizens in his district, when in fact he is blocking better access to health care for the uninsured. He noted an expected shortage of doctors and health care professionals, which is a challenge to be solved rather than an excuse to turn down billions of federal dollars. The future House speaker didn't mention that the Affordable Care Act encourages primary care doctors to accept Medicaid patients by increasing their reimbursement rate to the same level as the higher rate for treating Medicare patients.
Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, says the House is working on another health coverage solution. But Gov. Rick Scott, who has endorsed the Medicaid expansion, and Senate Republicans cannot allow the House to dictate the terms of the discussion with Monday's hard-line vote. Scott should explain his logical reasoning to accept the federal money in his State of the State speech today, and the Senate should continue its methodical approach to gathering all of the facts and making a pragmatic decision. To leave billions of federal dollars on the table and deprive nearly 1 million Floridians of Medicaid coverage would be fiscally irresponsible and morally indefensible.