“There seems to be some acknowledgment that we have an uninsured problem in Florida. The question is, how do you address that? Do you use state dollars, or do you use the existing program that the federal government has put out there?” – Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Florida
In the ever-blurring Tilt-a-Whirl that is Tallahassee politics – well, ever-blurring until the Florida House of Representatives called a halt to this year's legislative session several days prior to what the state Constitution mandates, because, brah, we're outta here – it can sometimes be hard to settle your gaze, much less your stomach. The rattling political trashcan known as Gov. Rick Scott has used this dizziness in his favor in more ways than one in the past. And last week, we found out more about what was really behind the machinations that made that leaping lizard go from one camp to another on Medicaid expansion.
Quick, let's catch up. Do you remember that time in 2013 when a slightly bedraggled Scott, seemingly aiming for that weird gut of compassion that didn't line up with anything he signed into law, went on record to say that he couldn't possibly refuse Medicaid expansion for all of the ailing people in the state, mostly in light of the recent death of his mother?
$2.2 billion Amount the state of Florida stands to lose in Low Income Pool funding when it expires at the end of June
"While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care," he insisted.
It turns out that his whole public crow-eating exercise – his dance of populism – was tied to waiver negotiations with the feds, because smoke and mirrors are popular in political circles. Last week, Scott's office said his statement was actually made in an attempt to get the federal government to grant the state a waiver to let the state "reform its Medicaid system" – i.e., hand control of it over to private insurance companies. Once said waivers were signed, allowing the state to continue receiving federal money for health care for the poor while simultaneously hating Obamacare and the poor (to the point of piss tests and lawsuits), Scott started whistling his own off-key version of Dixie again.
All of a sudden, it's Medicaid's fault for being a broken system that has grown in cost at three times the rate of state revenues (hello, shitty jobs you keep bringing to the state). All of a sudden, it's all about the poor's increased trips to the emergency room for service. Let's also note – as have fact checkers at the Palm Beach Post – all of Scott's bluster and bravado (including a lawsuit) against the Federal Department of Health and Human Services for (allegedly) tying LIP funding into the state's failure to expand Medicaid to cover the nearly 1 million people living in the Medicaid gap. That's not even close to true; the feds already extended LIP funding for the state through June 2015, and the state was told there would be no more extensions, because the answer to LIP funding was basically built into the Obamacare that Florida refused. But truth, from the man who instigated the largest Medicare fraud in history, is a cold catheter.
10 Number of years that Florida has received Low Income Pool funding from the federal government
OK, time out. The House walked away from its duties a few days early based largely on this ideological split of hypothetical understanding (we doubt anybody in the House even knows a poor person) that was stalling budget talks. The Senate, led by Orlando Republican Sen. Andy Gardiner – who is an executive with Orlando Health – had come up with a reasonable compromise between free-market exploitation and, uh, society taking care of itself in a humane manner. And Scott, ever the team player, is now – again – throwing a tantrum.
$66.1 billion Amount of federal money Florida turned down by refusing to expand Medicaid
He went to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on May 6 to arm-wrestle, apparently, and walked away "disappointed," thereafter filing an injunction against the feds for the apparition, the political mirage, that he had anything to fight for within the realm of logic. To think that there is any sense to the state's Republican refusal to take money from the feds (Obamacare; Medicaid expansion) and suing the feds for not providing medical handouts requires a certain backwoods disconnect and a teabag. Scott, in an interview last week, said that he wanted affordable solutions brought on by the free market. Scott, last week, met with the feds to get socialized medicine for the poor people he hates so much. Scott is suing the feds. Even some of his fellow Republicans are publicly rolling their eyes at this apparent breakdown by an apparent lunatic.
"I tend to think lawsuits in general are not productive, especially when you have to convince the person you're suing to give you money," Gardiner said, according to the Atlantic. There's the truth.
Also, there goes more taxpayer money.