Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The space between us: Rocketman Sen. Bill Nelson may not want to be governor, but he wants to tell the governor to fight for health care

Posted on Tue, May 7, 2013 at 9:53 AM


Now that Tallahassee – and, by proxy, the entire state of Florida – has been deprived of the oxygen required to accept more than one million people onto Medicaid insurance rolls via $51 billion in free federal money, everybody's favorite personification of beige (space beige, but still beige) is joining state Democrats in pressing Gov. Rick Scott to call a special legislative session to fix the matter. It's not often that we get tough talk from Nelson (he is, literally, like the wind), but when we do, it's a pretty big deal. Not only has Nelson been virtually drafted by the Charlie Crist-hating end of the Democratic Party to run against Gov. Scott in 2014 – he's not doing it; he means it, you guys – but he's also been climbing out of his shell (capsule?) of late, even acquiescing on the issue of gay marriage a few weeks ago. Wake up, grandpa! You're our next great progressive! Here's Nelson's note:

Dear Gov. Scott:

In Florida – a state where roughly one-in-five residents not covered by Medicare lack any health-insurance coverage at all – the consequences of the state Legislature’s recent decision not to expand Medicaid loom large.

As you know, in passing the Affordable Care Act, Congress fully funded the expansion of Medicaid coverage to an estimated one million Floridians.  And, your announcement last February – when you publicly declared you wouldn’t be the one to “deny” these Floridians this coverage – was seen by many as a “watershed moment” for the nation’s health-care bill.

Now, the Legislature has done exactly what you said you wouldn’t: it has denied these Floridians access to coverage.  And now, only you have the chance to remedy the lawmakers’ failure to expand Medicaid to these needy Floridians.  Therefore, I urge you to call a special session.

As governor, you have a responsibility to the safety and welfare of all Floridians.  And absent further action on your part, hundreds of thousands will continue receiving their medical care in hospital emergency rooms across our state – where the costs are the absolute highest, and taxpayers and policyholders foot-the-bill.

Not only was this an unconscionable and callous decision by the Legislature – it was also a bad decision for many business owners who could now end up paying tax penalties of $2,000 to $3,000 per employee.   As a former state treasurer and insurance regulator, I can also tell you one of the ways to curb a rise in premiums is by reducing the high expenses associated with uncompensated and indigent medical care that get passed on to the rest of us.

So, again, I strongly urge you to remedy the Legislature’s inexcusable failure.  I look forward to hearing from you on this issue of special importance and working with you to provide Floridians with this much-needed medical coverage.

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