Gov. Rick Scott’s Medicaid-expansion backlash 

The business community faces taxes and fines due to refusal of federal dollars

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JUST THE STATS

 

$1.5 BILLION

PROJECTED AMOUNT U.S. EMPLOYERS COULD PAY IN TAXES AND PENALTIES BEGINNING NEXT YEAR IN THE 25 STATES THAT HAVE NOT EXPANDED MEDICAID, EVEN THOUGH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WOULD SUBSIDIZE NEARLY ALL OF THE EXPANSION

 

$253 MILLION

PROJECTED NEW TAXES AND FEES ON BUSINESSES IN FLORIDA THAT EMPLOY MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE AND DO NOT OFFER AFFORDABLE EMPLOYER-SUBSIDIZED INSURANCE (PLANS THAT COST LESS THAN 9.5 PERCENT OF A FAMILY’S INCOME); THAT AMOUNTS TO UP TO $3,000 PER APPLICABLE WORKER

 

23 PERCENT

NUMBER OF FLORIDIANS WHO ARE CURRENTLY UNINSURED, ABOUT HALF OF WHOM WOULD QUALIFY FOR INSURANCE UNDER MEDICAID EXPANSION, WHICH WOULD BE FUNDED BY $51 BILLION IN FEDERAL DOLLARS IF APPROVED

 

“THE AMOUNT OF FEDERAL DOLLARS AVAILABLE FOR THE STATE OF FLORIDA TO INCREASE HEALTH COVERAGE IS SUBSTANTIAL, AND FLORIDA WOULD NOT BE THE FIRST REPUBLICAN-LED STATE TO ACCEPT MEDICAID EXPANSION. THERE ARE CURRENTLY EIGHT STATES LED BY REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS OR A MAJORITY REPUBLICAN LEGISLATURE WHO HAVE AGREED TO PROVIDE EXPANDED MEDICAID TO THEIR CONSTITUENTS.”
– STATE SEN. RENE GARCIA, R-HIALEAH
SOURCES: CNBC, TAMPA BAY TIMES

GRUDGE MATCH

While we were busy trying to keep all the litigious rainbow glitter from clogging our forward-staring eyes (see this week’s cover story about the legal challenge to Florida’s gay marriage ban for some of that sparkle), our favorite political antagonist Gov. Rick Scott was managing his own good-news overload from his bad-news overlord castle in the sky. Just as the Tampa Bay Times waxed editorially about the ephemeral “shrinking” nature of gubernatorial opponent Charlie Crist’s campaign last week – he doesn’t even have a campaign office, see? – Public Policy Polling spat out some numbers that seem to indicate that Scott is now within two points of Crist should the November election be held today. Two points, down from 12 points three months ago! This, dear readers, is either a worrying symptom of Floridian Stockholm syndrome (we deserve bad things!) or a sign that people aren’t really buying the Crist reboot, and the Democratic circular firing squad is alive and well. Boom.

Whatever the case, Scott still hasn’t addressed his biggest likability liability: the neverending, twisting and turning story of his stubborn refusal to accept $51 billion in federal money for Medicaid expansion and grant the moderately poor some reprieve. Last week, as reported by the starched Republican hedge-fund collars of CNBC, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service released an analysis showing that the stiff, anti-government chins of the Republican led governments in 25 states currently refusing federal Medicaid expansion monies could induce some sticker shock among the very businesses that conservatives claim to represent. It’s a Catch-22!

“There’s three words I use to describe this: esoteric, tedious and boring,” Brian Haile, the report’s coauthor and Jackson Hewitt policy expert, said cheerily to CNBC; at the same time, it’s “incredibly expensive to get wrong and ignore.”

According to the Jackson Hewitt report, Florida, which ranks second in the nation for number of uninsured, could be requiring its mid-range employers to pay up to $253 million in unexpected tax fees, money that would likely not be required should the legislature and the governor quit stomping their feet and start behaving like logical adults.

Though sizable, the fees aren’t really a surprise to those who’ve been monitoring the economic ramifications of a national health care overhaul. Indeed, in a fit of political hopscotch, businesses were given a pass on said fees for the Affordable Care Act’s first year (2014), mostly because of the bad public relations that came along with a floundering web launch for the program. But seeing the numbers as actual penalties that must be planned for in fiscal projections could be enough to sway some business lobbies into pushing the legislature to proceed with last year’s Florida Senate plan to expand Medicaid without conceding victory to a black president (yeah, yeah, pretend that’s not true). Hell, even Rick Scott supported expansion for half of a mouth breath.

“This is the employer side being able to quantify the effect,” Kaiser Family Foundation Medicaid expert Diane Rowland told CNBC. “I think as some of these economic arguments come out, the harder it is for some of these political arguments in states where [Medicaid expansion] is still under consideration.” In other words, stop hitting yourself.

Which is exactly the message U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius urged last week when meeting with mayors from across the nation, and something that the Florida Senate seems to be reconsidering for the next legislative session. Last week, state Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, basically re-filed 2013’s Senate compromise that would accept the federal funds without specifically expanding Medicaid (it’s called diversion and distraction, wonks!), calling last year’s House foolishness “irresponsible.”

“I hope the House puts aside partisan politics and does what is right for the hard working people of our great state,” Garcia said in a press release according to Tampa Bay Times. Oh, and also the hard working employers who write your campaign checks, too.

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