Tallahassee melted down last week.
I know it’s hard to tell in a town that suffers from daily dysfunction.
But last week, absurdity went on steroids when Republicans realized that all their screaming about how they don’t want no stinkin’ federal money might end up with them getting their wish.
This was something they never really expected.
Yes, they want to rant about Obamacare. But they also wanted to keep sucking up federal health-care dollars.
So when the feds finally said: Fine, if you don’t want our health dollars, we won’t give you our health dollars, they flipped out.
Gov. Rick Scott vowed to sue. Suddenly, he was no longer ranting about federal health-care money … he was desperate for it.
House Republicans weren’t sure what to do. So they staged a secret meeting where they passed out talking points for members to parrot. This way, if a pesky constituent asked why they were making such a mess, they could respond with prattle like: “We will continue to listen to new ideas …”
Senate Republicans — the grown-ups in the room — tried to offer solutions. But the two sides (from the same party) can’t even agree on a budget. So now they’re talking about a special session so that taxpayers can fund another round of this unproductive insanity.
Welcome to government in the sunshine — where leaders keep secrets from the people they represent and where working-class families are the victims of political warfare.
In this case, it’s 800,000 low-wage workers who will lose out if the House refuses to accept Medicaid money.
The money is there to help them. That’s what the Affordable Care Act is about. And most states have already accepted it — including ones led by Republican governors like Arizona’s Jan Brewer, who said: “It’s pro-life; it’s saving lives; it is creating jobs; it is saving hospitals.”
Florida business leaders agree, even if Florida has to fund 10 percent of the costs. The expansion has been touted by hospitals, pastors, nonprofit leaders and business execs who say the expansion will help families and generate 70,000 new jobs.
Senate Republicans also want to accept the money. (Proving this isn’t about left vs. right. It’s about solutionists vs. obstructionists.)
But House Republicans simply cannot get past the fact that this is “Obamacare” money. So they want to refuse insurance for others — even while enjoying taxpayer-subsidized plans of their own.
And now things are getting even messier.
See, the federal June 30 deadline for accepting Medicaid money is approaching. And if Florida doesn’t take it, we’ll also lose existing federal money that subsidizes hospitals around the state — more than $1 billion a year.
House Republicans view it as a threat. It’s actually financially savvy.
The existing money primarily reimburses hospitals for unpaid ER bills from the poor and uninsured — which is a wickedly ineffective way to provide health care. It’s cheaper for people with insurance and Medicaid to visit doctors and clinics.
That’s why the feds are basically saying: We’re giving you the money to provide citizens cheaper, preventive health care. If you won’t give them that, we’re not going to clean up your mess by spending tax dollars on costlier ER care.
This is what fiscal conservatives should want.
It’s like offering to pay for your daughter’s insurance plan and having her say: No thanks, Dad. I’d rather you just pay for my ER bills instead.
You’d tell her: No way. Well, Rick Scott is that defiant daughter, suing federal taxpayers to keep welfare-for-hospital-ER’s going.
Realizing that might not work, House Republicans are now talking about dipping into state reserves to try to patch together a budget.
Fiscal conservativism indeed.
Listen, I know not everybody likes Obamacare. Heck, there are parts of it I don’t like — and parts that conservatives like Jan Brewer and Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner don’t like either.
But that ship has sailed. The Affordable Care Act is now the law of the land.
The money is being spent. Now, it’s just a question of which states are going to take it — to provide health care to working families — and which states are going to make people suffer and wreck their own budgets to make a political point.