Despite Florida’s dismal next-to-last national ranking for 18-64 year-old adults (30%) with no health insurance, its Republican governor and legislative leaders are marking today’s final federal deadline for seizing an opportunity to solve that problem by putting partisan political gamesmanship above public service.
Today is the last chance for states to notify the federal government that they’ll take responsibility for their own uninsured citizens by building and running their own “health insurance exchanges” as part of the health reform legislation passed in 2010.
Obamacare, officially known as the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, has already:
- Forced health insurers to sell coverage to people with preexisting conditions.
- Allowed young people through age 26 to be covered by their parents’ family health care plans.
- Provided free preventive care services and life-saving health screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies for millions of Americans.
- Forced insurers to remove lifetime limits and “caps” on coverage.
- Prohibited insurers from canceling coverage when people get serious illnesses and incur higher medical costs.
- Saved senior citizens hundreds of millions on prescription drug costs.
- Saved taxpayers hundreds of millions by cracking down on fraud & abuse.
The giant next step to be taken - the very heart and soul of a law that got twisted into something “controversial” by Fox News and other hired hands of the multi-billion-dollar private interests and industries whose runaway profit margins the law threatened - comes in 2014.
That’s when large numbers of America’s nearly 50 million uninsured citizens finally get the financial and other assistance they need to get insured - and stop costing the rest of us countless billions of dollars by ultimately showing up at hospital emergency rooms with more serious, long-neglected medical problems that we all end up paying for anyway, with higher fees, insurance rates and taxes, to defray the cost of all that so-called “uncompensated” care.
The only answer to this mess is to insure the uninsured, the way every other industrialized nation on Earth has done. And that’s what today’s deadline is about. As much as those billionaire private interests and the hucksters they employ play the “Big Government” fear factor card, the fact is it’s nothing but a Joker. Because today was the day on which states like Florida could have taken the matter of solving this human and economic crisis right out of the federal government’s hands.
But with a shamelessly sneaky partisan lack of leadership demonstrated by Gov. Rick Scott and GOP legislative leaders like Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, Florida passed.
The shameless sneakiness here involves the Republican Party of Florida’s establishment of multiple Public Relations tools like “exploratory committees” and “citizen input” websites and “transparency” programs, all supposedly intended to keep Floridians informed about and involved in the process. But what process?
If you guessed that the PR, the “questions” and “concerns” they keep expressing over the costs and implementation challenges of Obamacare, all combine to camouflage a carefully premeditated, time-wasting non-compliance strategy; then you’re savvier than they give you credit for being.
Many other Republican-controlled state governments are also part of this effort to force the feds to do all the work in setting up the new structures and systems needed to get the uninsured covered in the years to come. Their cynical hope is that the feds - and Obama - will fail. If in the process, thousands more uninsured Americans get gravely ill, cost the rest of us a ton of money to care for, then die...well, those are apparently costs that these political opponents of the president and the health reform law are willing to live with.
Right-wing conservative group FreeedomWorks sums it up this way on its website:
“Without the exchange, federal mandates won't work and the feds cannot distribute the necessary insurance subsidies in exchange-less states. Obamacare falls apart. Congress will then be forced to revisit the law. The election may be over but Obamacare can still be stopped.”
Shame on all of us in Florida, where one in five people is uninsured and where our health care costs are out of control, if we let our elected government be party to such a sickening strategy. In addition to throwing the responsible parties out of office in 2014, you may want to let them know how you feel right now.
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