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2013 Florida Legislature leaves $51 billion on federal table

Roger Caldwell

Roger Caldwell

2013 Florida Legislature leaves $51 billion on federal table

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 vote as a partisan block. The leaders of both houses and the governor determine months before the session starts, the direction and focus of the Legislative session, and powerful lobbyists write the bills. It would be very interesting to find out which legislator had read and understands every bill that they voted on.

As the governor congratulates everyone for a job well done, the AARP Florida’s state director 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 eight million Floridians 50 and over on critical health-related issues,” said State Director Jeff Johnson.

Under federal law Floridians could have gotten $51 billion worth of federal aid to expand health coverage under the Medicaid program. This is a slap in the face, because by failing to expand Medicaid coverage 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 connected to health-care, because he was philosophically 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 a square one, and it makes no sense.

On October 1, 2013, states will be required to have a health insurance marketplace and Florida appears to be behind in its implementation of this component of the ACA. The federal government has stated that it would pick up 100 percent of the cost of the implementation of the bill until 2016. It makes no sense for legislators and our governor to leave $51 billion on the federal table.

The ACA is a very complicated law but it provides jobs and funding, and it helps one million Floridian families and residents receive access to basic preventive medical care. Even if our legislators are forced to call a special session this year, they must be forced to act on the expansion of Medicaid and the implementation of the Health Insurance Marketplace. Floridians are disappointed in our representatives and we must let them know.

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