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Posts Tagged ‘Medicaid’

Yesterday’s New York Times published an editorial on last Tuesday’s election results. While most of the “Monday morning quarterback” analysis of the election has been to focus on the Republicans gaining a majority in the House, the editorial focused more on state elections, and for good reasons.

State elections got less attention in the media before the election and they may well slip under the radar now. But they shouldn’t.

For starters, statewide elections were extremely important for one simple reason: redistricting. This cycle showed a big push to elect Republican governors that would allow Republicans to redraw districts which will be more favorable to.. (Surprise!) Republicans, and the push was successful. They gained 10 Republican governors seats, and they are now in control of 20 states compared to the previous number of nine.

From the Times editorial:

The changes in state government will have another long-term effect as states begin the redistricting process to comply with the population changes documented in the 2010 census. This means that Republicans will be in a position to consolidate this year’s gains by redrawing Congressional and state legislative district lines to their advantage.

Sound familiar? It should. Last week Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendments 5 and 6, which will prevent districts from being redrawn unfairly to the advantage of Republicans. More importantly, when the state legislature tried to undercut them with Amendment 7 last July, it was thrown off the ballot because it was misleading to voters, which of course, was the entire point of Amendment 7 in the first place.

When Amendments 5 and 6 passed last week, the will of the people won out. Unfortunately, the day after the election, a suit was already being filed to undo Amendment 6, which would declare it invalid and prevent it from being enforced. Amendment 6 sets the rules for drawing Florida’s congressional districts.

Today Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolous (R-Merritt Island)) announced that Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) will oversee the redrawing of Florida’s district lines based on the 2010 census.

If the name Gaetz sounds familiar to those who followed the debate over Amendments 5 and 6, the so-called “Fair Districts” amendments limiting the legislature’s ability to gerrymander districts that passed a statewide vote on Nov. 2, that’s because Gaetz’s son, state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, was a vocal opponent of 5 and 6.

In the week before the vote on Amendments 5 and 6, Matt penned an op-ed in theNorthwest Florida Daily News, urging readers to vote no on 5 and 6 because they would blunt “the conservative comeback” in Florida. The remarks were unusual, because anti-Fair Districts activists generally preferred to voice their opposition in less explicitly partisan terms. (Even if the Republican Party of Florida did largely fund the organized opposition to 5 and 6.) Matt’s argument was picked up by at least one tea party group, which included his op-ed in an email newsletter.

Voters in Florida may want fair districts, but the Republican controlled legislature is determined to change that as the above examples show.

Then there’s the fact that for some reason, a majority of voters in Florida elected Republican Rick Scott, who was not charged with Medicare fraud, to be their Governor. (But his company Columbia/HCA was fined more that $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud. His current company which runs private clinics,  Solantic, is also facing accusations. As Governor, Scott may now appoint the agency head who will be investigating Solantic as well.)

Among the things that Scott ran under during the campaign was his goal of privatizing Medicaid, which would direct recipients to private clinics, like the ones Scott owns. Scott also led the push to defeat President Obama’s health care reform legislation by forming his non-profit organization Conservatives For Patients Rights. Add to that, Florida is also leading the lawsuit against the new health care reform laws filed by Bill McCollum and joined by other states as well. A majority of Florida voters also elected Republican and FOX-GOP spokesmodel Pam Bondi (also brought to you via Sarah Palin’s endorsement) as Attorney General, who vows to continue the fight to strip health care reform away from Floridians who might benefit from it.

Rick Scott also plans to slash spending by cutting government jobs and education, stripping away regulations, eliminating income tax for businesses, reducing property taxes, and many other cuts in order to “run Florida like a business.” (Recall again, Scott oversaw the company with one of the largest fines ever charged in a Medicare fraud case, which he was forced to leave, and so was never himself charged with Medicare fraud.)

Now it remains to be seen which of these goals Scott will actually be able to reach. They are lofty goals indeed and some might even say unrealistic given the realities Florida is facing. Making all of those cuts while promising to add 700,000 jobs at the same time may involve some tricky maneuvers. Scott may well be adept at tricky maneuvers, but it will take some doing in that he faces a veto proof legislature who may have different goals of their own. Campaign promises and wishful thinking don’t count.

Going back to the Times editorial:

There is no way that these newly elected Republican lawmakers and governors can follow through on their promises to erase huge deficits without raising taxes — except by making irresponsibly draconian cuts in critical state services, particularly for the poor and for education.

The states, like the federal government, need to get control of spending. That may mean dealing with out-of-control pensions. It may mean careful cuts in services combined with, yes, higher taxes. But with millions of people out of work, this is the worst possible time for the states to try to solve all their problems by simply slashing health care spending, spending on higher and elementary education, and services for the elderly and the poor. It would lead to tens of thousands of layoffs and even lower state revenues.

Many other states have little left to cut in government services. Nonetheless, as Monica Davey and Michael Luo reported in The Times this week, many newly elected Republican governors say they will balance their budgets that way. In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry and several state lawmakers have even floated the idea of dropping out of the Medicaid program and creating a low-cost insurance program for the poor.

That is an irresponsible, and counterproductive, way to try to close the state’s $25 billion deficit. It would mean giving up the federal government’s 60 percent share of the Texas program’s $40 billion annual cost. And for nearly four million participants, it would reduce the level of health care far below a minimum standard.

No matter what the politicians have promised, there is no sound way to balance budgets, protect the most vulnerable people, and the states’ own economies, without some tax increases.

There’s also the matter of the stimulus money, which Florida is getting a big chunk of for high-speed rail projects. Scott has waffled on his support or the lack thereof for high-speed-rail. While other Republican Governors have talked big against the stimulus while accepting those very funds and taking credit for receiving them at the same time, yesterday Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated that any states which refuse to proceed with high-speed rail projects will lose those stimulus funds. If that condition holds true for Florida Scott will have to walk a fine line. If he stands in the way and blocks plans for high-speed rail in Florida, he’ll also be blocking an estimated 23,000 jobs, not to mention stimulating business development that will boost Florida’s economy which is sorely needed.

NY Times:

The Republicans’ big wins in Washington will make the states’ plight even worse. As part of their campaigns, Republican members of Congress have vowed to cut discretionary spending, much of which goes to state capitols. Meanwhile, federal stimulus money — decried by the Republicans — is drying up.

Rick Scott made a lot of big campaign promises to voters, and apparently they believed him, given his history with business and Medicare fraud. He portrayed himself to be an outsider, when in fact he lined up rather quickly with Republican cronies in a now veto proof legislature. He has to keep them and voters happy all at the same time, or risk the wrath of both. That in itself should be interesting to watch.

NY Times:

These highly partisan exercises in self-aggrandizement go on every 10 years, but the unusually large number of states with both Republican legislatures and governorships will sharply reduce the ability of Democrats to bring a little balance to the process.

States have long been in the paradoxical position of being closer to the lives of voters than the federal government, while receiving far less scrutiny and attention. But if Republicans begin abusing the privilege they have been handed, imposing unconscionable cuts and claiming an unfair partisan advantage, they may find the public’s outrage turning back on them in a hurry.

In Florida it’s in fact quite safe to say that Republicans will “begin abusing the privilege they have been handed.” They already have. They began abusing that privilege in less than 24 hours after the election last Tuesday by filing suit against Amendment 6, which will go against the will of the voters and stack the deck against them and in favor of Republican lawmakers.

All this before Governor elect Rick Scott, who was never charged with Medicare fraud, is even sworn in.

So I have to ask those voters who chose Rick Scott a question: I know it’s early, but has “voters remorse” started to kick in yet?

 

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Wow, here’s a real “shocker.” Rick Scott unveiled his “tax and insurance” plan yesterday, where he proposes restrictions on lawsuits. The plan is centered around property insurance.

If you read closer though, he proposes some “restrictions” on other types of lawsuits. Not surprisingly, involving doctors.

Scott’s proposal also calls for several new restrictions on lawsuits, including limiting lawsuits against doctors who work at county health departments and those medical doctors who work on behalf of Medicaid. Incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, has already said that he will likely pursue lawsuit restrictions against Medicaid providers next year.

Scott released a booklet outlining his proposals, on insurance and tort reform. The part addressing physicians is contained in a short paragraph on page 12 of a 16 page booklet entitled Medical Related Reform.

He proposes restrictions on lawsuits against doctors? Gosh, why do you suppose that might be?

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A report from the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center shows that the United States is now ranked 12th internationally in the number of college graduates. Canada is ranked number one. We’re actually outranked by South Korea.

Florida is ranked 47th in average graduation rates for public high schools, and 32 in the estimated rate of high school graduates entering college.

Republicans in Congress, including those from Florida, apparently think those numbers are just fine. They consider passing a bill to save jobs for teachers a “bailout.” They say there’s no money and that we can’t afford to “spend, spend, spend” for things like education. Never mind that they bailed out Wall Street without batting an eye, and for good reason. Sizable contributions to the GOP from Wall Street are growing every day. But Republicans blame THAT bailout on the “people over-spending on homes they couldn’t afford,” NOT the banks. People like, oh I don’t know, maybe teachers or emergency workers who’ve lost their jobs? Maybe even you or someone you know?

One explains the Republican logic this way:

“Spending another $10 billion we do not have will not improve public education or protect the very best teachers.”

While you’re scratching your head over that one, remember Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)? He’s the guy who apologized to poor old BP when President Obama’s proposed cleanup bill got in the way of their perfectly good oil disaster that threatens Florida’s economy along with several other states. Before he voted against the bill he apologized yet again for more ungrateful victims:

“I’m sorry that we have to be here today to spend money that the taxpayers don’t have and Congress can’t afford for an economic stimulus program that doesn’t work.”

Barton and his colleagues could solve some of the problem by putting people back to work right away. They could use a little economics tutoring. Maybe hiring an acting coach while they’re at it? To pass this bill, they say we’re spending another $10 billion the taxpayer doesn’t have!

They’re lying.

They think you’ll believe all this just because they say so, loudly in front of cameras from C-Span (Watch here for some of the highlights, from Media Matters.) They think you’re stupid. They voted against you AND that bill, perhaps hoping to keep it that way: Stupid.

On Tuesday, House Democrats passed the bill that will save over 300,000 jobs for teachers and emergency workers. A bill that will bring more than $700 million to Florida to prevent cuts in Medicaid and will save 9,200 teaching jobs. A bill that is paid for by closing tax loopholes for multinational corporations. No wonder Joe Barton is so indignant!

The bill passed by a vote of 247-161 and split on party lines. Republicans from Florida naturally joined the rest of their party and voted no. Four of the Republicans didn’t even bother to show up to vote.

No to those “bailouts” for teachers and their students. The GOP now defines education as a “special interest.” Unfortunately that’s one “special interest” that just can’t compete with Wall Street.

Republicans ARE however in favor of extending those Bush tax cuts for incomes of $250,000 or more a year. The ones that add a hefty chunk to the deficit and aren’t paid for. Not to worry though. They plan to let the middle class foot the bill, problem solved! Now there’s a bailout they can get behind!

Try to see it from a Republican millionaire’s point of view: any money that comes out of his/her pocket from those tax cuts they so desperately want to keep, and instead goes to funding things like health care, police departments, fire departments, emergency first responders, unemployment benefits, Medicaid, social security before age 70, just to name a few, well that’s just simply unaffordable! Even the smallest fraction taken from the paycheck of, say a GOP House member who can’t even bother to show up and physically vote against a bill to do so. Any amount of that expired tax cut that could put a teacher back to work, a student back in school five days a week instead of four, or maybe just give us a shot of catching up to college graduates in South Korea. In a perfect GOP world money spent on education would be a terrible thing to waste!

In Florida all “yes” votes for the bill came from Democrats. All Republicans listed below voted “no” or didn’t bother to vote, period. Maybe we should be asking THEM why anyone in Florida should bother to vote for them next time around?

Voted No:

Not Voting:

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