2013 Florida Legislature Leaves $51 Billion on Federal Table
- Category: Politics
- Published: Friday, 17 May 2013 17:40
- Written by Roger Caldwell
The President of the Florida Senate Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) would like to congratulate the 2013 Florida Legislature for an historic session that was extremely productive and transformational. I am always amazed by the level of bills that are introduced and passed in 60 days by the Florida Legislature. At this point I am still wondering if this is enough time to get the job done properly, because our governor has signed over 20 bills and most Floridians don’t have any idea who they will help or hurt.
I am even starting to think that most Florida legislators have a limited understanding about most of the bills in the session and they are just voting as a partisan block. The leaders of both houses and the governor determine the direction and focus of the legislative session months before the session starts and powerful lobbyists write the bills. It would be very interesting to find out which legislators have actually read and understand every bill that they voted on.
As the governor congratulates everyone for a job well done, the Florida’s AARP state director, Jeff Johnson had a different perspective on the 2013 legislative session. “The test of leadership is to solve problems. This year the Florida Legislature failed that test on important issues regarding the health of older Floridians. The failure of health-care expansion was quite simply a blunder. This legislature came up short for more than 8 million Floridians 50 and over on critical health-related issues,” said Mr. Johnson.
Under federal law Floridians were eligible for $51 billion worth of federal aid to expand health coverage under the Medicaid program. This is a major slap in the face. By failing to expand Medicaid coverage, these elected officials have made sure that 1 million uninsured Floridian will miss out on health coverage. When the House refuses to act, the spirit of collaboration goes out the window and the legislature fails to deliver to the Floridians they serve.
Our governor has refused millions of federal funding dollars connected to health-care because he was ideologically against the Affordable Care Act. But once the Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional, our governor made statements making it appear that he supported the ACA. Nevertheless, our elected legislators failed to reach an agreement on expanding health care coverage in Florida and now as a state we are back at square one. Floridians are hurting and it makes no sense.
On October 1, 2013, states will be required to have a health insurance marketplace and Florida is behind in implementing this component of the ACA. The federal government would pick up 100% of the cost of the implementation of the bill until 2016 so it makes absolutely no sense for the governor and legislators to leave $51 billion on the table.
The ACA is a very complicated law but it does provide jobs and funding. It helps one million Floridian families and residents receive access to basic preventive medical care. Even if Florida legislators are forced to call a special session this year, they must act on the expansion of Medicaid and the implementation of the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Floridians have clear reasons to be disappointed in our representatives and we must make the effort to let them know.