1. Opinion

Editorial: Will Tampa Bay Republicans stand for Floridians on <p></p>Medicaid?

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel
Published Apr. 25, 2013

Two Pasco County Republicans, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Rep. Richard Corcoran, are expected to ram through the House their health care proposal today that would cover too few, cost too much and offer false hope to the uninsured. Other Tampa Bay Republicans should stand up to their leaders and demand better for their constituents. • Gov. Rick Scott supports accepting $51 billion in federal money to expand Medicaid to cover nearly 1 million uninsured Floridians. He is open to a reasonable alternative proposed by Sen. Joe Negron, which would use the federal money to provide subsidies to help those same Floridians buy private insurance. Yet Weatherford and Corcoran refuse to accept the Medicaid money and stand against the Republican governor, probably the majority of the Legislature, a clear majority of Florida voters, local hospitals, the health care industry, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida. More reasonable House Republicans should not let them get away with stalling and hiding behind their inadequate proposal that is going nowhere.

The House bill is morally and financially indefensible. It rejects billions in federal dollars and would cost taxpayers $2 billion in state dollars over 10 years. It would force the state to keep paying $430 million a year for the Medically Needy Program, costs that the Medicaid expansion would cover. And it ignores that Floridians pay federal taxes and are not getting their fair share of federal money flowing back to the state.

The House legislation ultimately would provide coverage to only 130,000 low-income, uninsured Floridians by giving them $2,000 each to buy private coverage in some fantasy new market. Weatherford and Corcoran inflate the projections by saying another 400,000 could use federal subsidies to buy private insurance, but many of those residents still would find that coverage inadequate and unaffordable. The unwillingness by Weatherford, Corcoran and their allies to provide health coverage to low-income childless adults — who would be covered by the Medicaid expansion — is particularly cold-hearted. Their message to those Floridians: Work harder and get a better job.

There are conservative House Republicans who are more pragmatic and enlightened. Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, supports accepting the federal Medicaid money. He fought the good fight Thursday as he questioned the Weatherford/Corcoran legislation and pushed the Negron plan to no avail. Other Tampa Bay Republicans should also insist on better.

What about Rep. Ed Hooper of Clearwater, who plans to run for the Pinellas County Commission next year and appeal to centrist voters?

What about Rep. Kathleen Peters, the former South Pasadena mayor who has a solid record of working on behalf of low-income residents?

What about Rep. James Grant of Tampa, whose constituents in Northdale and Oldsmar would be particularly helped by the Medicaid expansion?

What about Rep. Ross Spano of Dover, who represents the working-class neighborhoods of Riverview, Palm River and Valrico?

What about Rep. Rob Schenck of Spring Hill or Rep. Jimmie Smith of Inverness?

There is a week left in the legislative session, and today's House vote is only the beginning of the final maneuvering over the single biggest issue facing Florida. Weatherford appears to be willing to run out the clock and do nothing rather than accept the federal money and cover 1 million uninsured Floridians.

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Are Tampa Bay Republicans going to let him get away with it?


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