If you were offered $51 billion to help Florida’s working poor afford health care, would you say, “No thanks”? If you could create 120,000 new jobs and help Florida businesses, would you say, “I’m not interested”?
Unfortunately, this is the response by Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and some of his fellow House members as they single-handedly stonewall Florida’s acceptance of $51 billion in Medicaid expansion funds.
These funds would be used to expand coverage to 1.2 million low-income adults over the next 10 years, with a University of Florida economic study showing it would create more than 120,000 new jobs.
These funds will go to other states to stimulate their economies, help their businesses and cover their low-wage workers.
Surprisingly, Weatherford is standing alone with a blindfold over his eyes, as groups as diverse as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, along with hundreds more, support acceptance of the Medicaid expansion money.
The business communities’ support is no surprise, with large metro areas standing to benefit the most. Hillsborough could gain 7,377 jobs.
Even the governor says he supports taking the $51 billion — but has so far paid little more than lip service and done nothing to use the weight of his office to get the process moving.
The Senate led the way in this battle, with Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, proposing a way to take the money and distribute it through an existing nonprofit. But Weatherford said no (despite House members taking public funds to support their amazingly low $8.43 per month health care plan).
Without Medicaid expansion, employers would be responsible for providing an affordable, comprehensive health plan for employees in that low-wage group or face a penalty, and for Florida’s many low-wage employers, some experts say, obtaining coverage for low-wage employees under the Affordable Care Act would be difficult.
If Medicaid expansion remains dormant, Florida’s working poor will be without coverage, putting us at a competitive disadvantage with other states for business development and hiring.
We urge fellow Floridians to send our Legislature back to the table and figure out how to keep our tax dollars in Florida, help our working poor and provide the Sunshine State with the greatest economic stimulus in recent times.
Deirdre Macnab and Teresa Jenkins
League of Women Voters of Florida