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Gov. Rick Scott's "keep Florida working" budget slashes funding for free and low-cost clinics



One area where Gov. Rick Scott's slash-and-burn approach to budgeting hit particularly hard this year: healthcare for the poor. Among Scott's bigger cuts was $9.5 million set aside for the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, which supports free and low-cost clinics across the state. According to the governor's proud letter announcing his bold, brave budget, which will save Floridians money on their cable and phone bills (those are some of the taxes he's bragged about cutting, through the savings really don't add up to much – according to the governor's office, about $43 per year for most), the line item for the free clinics was cut because it's not being used directly for "services." Therefore, it is not considered a statewide priority for improving cost, quality and access to healthcare.

However, according to the organization, the money was to be used to make grants available to help clinics expand their capacity and serve 25,000 new clients. In other words, the organization says it met all the criteria for being one of Scott's alleged statewide priorities.

In a statement released shortly after Scott made his pronouncement about budget vetoes, the association expressed dismay: "Yesterday's decision de-funded the free and charitable clinics," it wrote. "We never imagined it could happen. We are in shock. We feel terrible for our 87 member clinics and We Cares, for their legions of volunteer doctors and nurses and countless other health professionals, for their loyal community partners, and most of all for their patients – the ones they serve now, and the ones who will not be served because of this decision."

Scott's budget may "keep Florida working," as its tagline states. But many will still be working at low-paid jobs that may not offer workers any affordable healthcare options. – Erin Sullivan