The Florida House’s refusal to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid stands as the most confounding action of the 2013 legislative session thus far, and probably the most irresponsible. Money that could be used to help more than a million needy Floridians who lack access to healthcare is in danger of being rejected for political reasons that fly in the face of common sense and elementary mathematics.
The federal proposal is unquestionably favorable for Florida and its taxpayers: It would provide $9.8 billion over three years to help as many as 1.1 million Floridians — who either don’t qualify for Medicare yet because of their age or are too poor — to obtain healthcare. Over a decade, that comes to $55 billion, a hefty amount.
Gov. Rick Scott was an early and ardent foe of “Obamacare,” but he can count. Mr. Scott came out in favor of the deal after reviewing its provisions, and the Florida Senate seems inclined to follow. A Senate panel has approved a plan by Sen. Joe Negron to give the federal money to recipients in the form of vouchers to obtain private insurance.
Thus, it would follow Republican principles by relying on the private insurance market, and would still reach hundreds of thousands of uncovered Floridians. Even Associated Industries of Florida, a conservative business lobby, gives the plan two thumbs up because it creates jobs and would lessen or eliminate federal business taxes on states that don’t insure enough people.
Compare that to the House plan, which would use $237 million in state funds to give recipients $2,000 a year to choose their own private insurance. In addition to relying exclusively on state money, it would cover only about 115,000 residents, a far smaller number.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, who has rejected the federal funds, appears concerned that taking the money would link House Republicans to President Obama, drawing fire from the political right. That is both fiscally irresponsible and insensitive to the needs of Floridians. He should reconsider his position, and Gov. Scott should push harder. Accepting the deal is a far better alternative.