Florida Times Union
“Tia Mitchell: Lawmakers are back home and you should be talking to them about health care”
May 2, 2015
By Tia MitchellThe Florida House closed up shop midday Tuesday — more than three days before schedule — in an unprecedented protest over Medicaid expansion.Republican leaders didn’t see the value of staying in Tallahassee while there was no work being done on the budget, the only task the Legislature must complete each year.Many senators stayed behind and kept working but, without the House to sign off on legislation, many important bills died.The impasse has its roots in Florida’s health care spending, and whether the state should accept federal dollars to drastically reduce the number of uninsured residents.The Senate wants to use federal dollars to purchase private health insurance for poor Floridians, as long as they share in the costs and work or go to school. The House said it doesn’t want the feds’ money, especially for any plan that requires them to cover able-bodied, childless adults.This is a deep philosophical divide and eventually one side, or both, will have to bend.The state fiscal year begins July 1, and the budget needs to be approved by then. Right now, the House and Senate are $4 billion apart.For right now, lawmakers have headed home. But that is where you — yes, YOU — come in.On the cover of Reason today, you will find each chamber’s talking points and some fact-checking to go with it.As you can see, in some instances lawmakers are looking at the same set of facts and drawing different conclusions.What do you see?For the past two months here in Tallahassee, lawmakers have heard from various stakeholder groups about what they should do about Medicaid expansion and the Low Income Pool, a separate program that helps hospitals and health clinics treat the uninsured but is scheduled to expire in June.University of Florida Health Jacksonville has been the most vocal of the state’s safety net hospitals about the impact of a substantial reduction in LIP funding, especially if the state doesn’t do something to offset the losses. If UF Health loses even a fraction of its $95 million in LIP, the region’s only trauma center could face closure, administrators say.Health care and business groups formed the “A Health Florida Works” coalition to push for Medicaid expansion. It has the backing of the Florida Hospital Association, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, all big political influences.On the other side, the James Madison Institute and Americans for Prosperity-Florida have outlined why they think Medicaid expansion is a bad idea.Lawmakers have heard from lobbyists, executives and analysts. Now it’s time for them to hear from constituents.Your elected officials are back in the district until they are summoned to the Capitol for a special session to iron out the budget.Part of the reason they are home now is to listen.Call their offices. Chat them up at the grocery store. Ask them to speak at the next meeting of your civic club or church group.It’s time to tell the people you elected how you think this health care dispute should be resolved.Get informed, then let your legislators know how they can best represent you when they return to Tallahassee.Article: http://jacksonville.com/news/florida/2015-05-02/story/tia-mitchell-lawmakers-are-back-home-and-you-should-be-talking-them