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February 25, 2013

Conservative Republican governors expanding Medicaid

MERIDIAN —

“We’re not going to implement Obamacare in Florida,” said tea party favorite and Obamacare opponent Rick Scott during his 2010 campaign for governor. “We’re not going to expand Medicaid.”

    Sounds like our governor.

    But, last week, as governor, Scott announced he’s signing Florida up for Medicaid expansion.

    “This country is the greatest in the world, and it’s the greatest largely because of how we value the weakest among us,” said Scott. “No mother or father should despair over whether they have access to high-quality health care for their sick child.” With federal funds covering the cost, “I cannot in good conscience deny Floridians that needed access to health care.”

    Governor Phil Bryant has yet to see any need to expand Medicaid in the state with the highest percentage of “the weakest among us.”

    “There is no one who doesn’t have health care in America, no one,” said Bryant. “Now, they may end up going to the emergency room.”

    Poor people going to emergency rooms not only excludes preventive care and follow-up care, but is the most expensive form of medical care. Not exactly the “high-quality health care” Scott mentioned.

    Scott is not the only tea party backed governor to shift positions. So too have Republican governors Rick Snyder in Michigan and Jan Brewer in Arizona.

    “This makes sense for the physical and fiscal health of Michigan,” Snyder said.

    “With this move, we will secure a federal revenue stream to cover the costs of the uninsured who already show up in our doctor’s offices and emergency rooms” said Brewer.

    The costs Brewer mentioned are for “uncompensated care.” Today hospitals get a partial reimbursement for providing free care to the indigent. Next year, Obamacare will stop those reimbursements. Mississippi hospitals reported uncompensated care costs totaled $315 million last year. They’re looking to Bryant and the Mississippi Legislature for help.

    Four other GOP governors have seen the fiscal light, if not the spiritual light, of expanding Medicaid – John Kasich of Ohio, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, and Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota.

    Kasich said the Bible runs his life "not just on Sunday, but just about every day. And I’ve got to tell you, I can’t look at the disabled, I can’t look at the poor, I can’t look at the mentally ill, I can’t look at the addicted and think we ought to ignore them.”

All seven Republican governors say they will back out if the program becomes unaffordable, but believe expansion necessary to protect rural and safety-net hospitals from uncompensated care cuts. Scott also negotiated several special provisions for Florida.

    Meanwhile, our Republican legislative leaders don’t even want to debate Medicaid expansion, much less seriously consider its potential health and financial benefits.

    Bless their hearts.

 

    Bill Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.

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