In case you hadn't noticed, the Republicans in Florida are willing to do just about anything to keep people from gaining access to health care, especially the poorest ones. They couldn't care less that about six people die every day in Florida thanks in part to their inaction, and now their refusal to expand Medicaid is coming back to haunt them through the things they care about the most:
Their image, and money.
They don't care that their constituents are dying, no sir. But they do care that their inaction is making them look like the irresponsible, immoral, and heartless hypocrites that they are. Virtually every newspaper in Florida last week demanded that they stop hurting Floridians and expand Medicaid as other state have done, including other states run by Republicans who finally recognized there's no reason not to. Their cruel hypocrisy is so apparent that they're also gaining nationwide shame, and rightfully so.
They didn't appear to notice until last week, when reality bit them. Hard.
You see, they've known all along that federal LIP funds for hospitals would likely dissappear if they didn't act, but now that they're about to lose the funding, they're pretending that this is news to them. They've said all along they didn't want federal funds for Medicaid, and the feds took them at their word and called their bluff. Suddenly that "government handout" is looking real good to Rick Scott and he's threatened to sue over it. So far that lawsuit is just a threat and hasn't actually been filed yet. Perhaps Scott's still searching for an attorney who won't flat out laugh in his face while explaining how twisted and frivolous such an endeavor would be.
Meanwhile, the Senate wants to work out a plan, but the diehard "Obamacare" haters in the House won't budge.
The problem for all of them is they're constitutionally obligated to pass a budget. Instead, they've spent a great deal of this legislative session working on bills for their friends in the NRA, bills that further restrict women's health choices, and those that discriminate against gay couples who want to adopt, while completely ignoring Medicaid. But ignoring it didn't make it go away, and now it's threatening the only thing they're required to pass: A budget.
Good going, GOP. You had one job...
Rick Scott had a wish list for that budget, and both he and the GOP seemed to think that the LIP money would magically keep flowing their way, but now that probably won't happen. All the whining and complaining in the world won't change the fact that they're approaching the end of the session, and their budget is pretty much toast without those LIP funds. Republicans in the Senate have a Medicaid plan they want, but the House is dead set against all things Medicaid, as is Scott, and it's causing a major meltdown within the entire party.
Senate Republicans are pointing fingers at the House. The House GOP is doubling down in Koch anti-health care worship. Scott stepped in with a proposal to move forward, and the Senate promptly invited him to step out again. Then they threatened the confirmations of some of his appointees. Now Scott is calling for a special session, something he refused to do last year over Medicaid expansion, as you'll recall. He's also threatening to use his veto pen on things the GOP want if they don't get in line.
Tell us again, Gov. Scott, who's the so-called "bully" in this health care mess you've created?
Meanwhile, did I mention that about six Floridians are dying a day without health care?
Amid all the turmoil, the House GOP did what any great leaders would do: They hid from the public and the press behind closed doors to convince any members who might finally be willing to do the right thing not to give in.
A reporter actually stood with his ear to the door of the closed meeting while debates over whether the House GOP were violating Sunshine Laws were being conducted on the other side. As per the eavesdropping AP reporter, here's what the House members didn't want the press and the public to hear:
Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout listened in to the meeting by placing his ear at the crack of door. It's not glamorous, but Fineout was able to catch certain phrases here and there. Here's what he told the rest of us as we waited for Republicans to end their secret meeting.
"We're asking you to trust us," Speaker Steve Crisafulli told Republican members. "Feel good about where you are." (applause)
Crisafulli told the caucus that former Gov. Jeb Bush was taken out of context when he was recently quoted on Medicaid.
"We're going to get beat up by the press," Crisafulli said.
"We're going to do what we can do to get out of town constitutionally, whether it's through a special session or extended session," Crisafulli said.
That sure sounds like strategy and discussing action on future legislative action. But afterward, Crisafulli pointed out that Medicaid expansion is not legislation that is before the House. It is, however, in front of the Senate, which Fineout said would subject the meeting to the open meetings law.
Crisafulli, however, said the House's general counsel, Matt Carson, had cleared the script that Crisafulli was reading from.
“I was very scripted. He said everything we were doing in that meeting was perfectly within the confines of the the law.”
By all means, deny those the most in need any access to health care, and feel good about it while you do so! Such a proud moment for the GOP cowards who put the squeeze to their constituents while hiding behind closed doors. Bravo!
The House GOP also argued that they didn't violate Sunshine Laws because they were really just conducting a "history lesson" rather than discussing or acting on legislation.
As for that "script" Crisafulli was reading from, it appeared to be a "guide" of talking points they plan to use as they bravely cut off any Medicaid hopes which comes from an assistant professor from the University of Arizona, a man who's been wrong about virtually every prediction he's ever made about the evils of Obamacare.
But the GOP aren't interested in facts, especially the ones that say Florida is one of the biggest Affordable Care Act success stories in the country in spite of their efforts to block Medicaid, to make it harder for health care navigators to aid ACA signups, and to allow the insurance companies to raise everyone's rates as they see fit regardless of the ACA while other states lowered theirs. Yes. Many Floridians health insurance rates are higher than the rest of the country's not because of Obamacare, but simply because Scott and the GOP created a law giving insurance companies the ability to charge whatever they want.
In spite of all these facts, in spite of all the shame, and in spite of the sheer cruelty bestowed on their constituents, the House GOP (who pay very little for their own taxpayer funded health care, by the way) really want those six deaths a day to continue.
Never mind that Florida taxpayers, business leaders, religious leaders, health care leaders, and even their backers at the Florida Chamber of Commerce and previous hard-liners in their party in other states, are all pro-Medicaid expansion. Never mind that without that LIP funding, hospitals will be forced to close, taking Florida's economy and jobs with them. It doesn't matter to that small group, the House "Immoral Minority." They've decided that all those things, along with the very lives of Floridians, are expendable. Merely collateral damage in their quest to worship at the feet of groups like Americans For Prosperity and the Koch brothers who make it worth their while. And as all this ugly dysfunction boils over in public view, Florida Republicans are only concerned with one thing:
Take it from GOP Sen. Tom Lee, who said this:
“This damages our party. This makes us look like we cannot govern, that we cannot work out our differences, and the talk about a big tent is cheap.”
No, Sen. Lee, this doesn't "make it look like" you can't govern. It proves it. And, did I mention that IT'S KILLING PEOPLE?
This is a mess purely of their own making, and it could all be resolved by simply doing the right thing: Expanding Medicaid. But they refuse. They won't even vote on it.
Nope. The Florida GOP and Rick Scott have never cared about doing the right thing for average, everyday Floridians. They only care about doing the right thing for themselves, no matter the cost to others.
Six deaths a day will probably be the low figure if they refuse to do the right thing.
And they've given us no reason to believe that they won't.