While the business of governing requires tough choices and choosing between priorities that can be conflicting, sometimes it’s best to do what the people want. After all, it’s their money that is being spent.
So, listen up, Tallahassee.
On the subject of state Medicaid funding, the people — your bosses — appear to have spoken loudly, clearly and with a you-better-not-mess-with-this message. They want it funded, and they’re not kidding.
According to a Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted for the Florida Hospital Association and shared with FloridaPolitics.com, about three-quarters of the 600 registered voters surveyed like their Medicare and Medicaid. They strongly reject shifting funds from those programs to other spending projects.
And this is most telling — of those voters who accept the state might have a budget crisis, 66 percent say Medicare and Medicaid shouldn’t be cut.
This comes as budget proposals in the House and Senate call for steep cuts in those programs.
Well, well, well!
Budget hawks in the Legislature have grumped for years about the expense of these programs, but they’re missing the point. As this poll appears to show, the people are telling legislators that this point is nonnegotiable.
Lawmakers can get away with a lot of things because voters are consumed by the act of living day to day. Most voters don’t tune into all the nuance and back-and-forth that goes on in the Legislative Session, but they’ll damn sure pay attention if their Medicaid is threatened.
While the moves by House Speaker Richard Corcoran to tighten lobbying rules and eliminate Gov. Rick Scott’s business incentives were politically shrewd and had the added benefit of being the right thing to do, I doubt voters in the Villages or anywhere else in the state discussed it at happy hour.
Health care coverage is so complicated, though, that can’t be solved with barroom chat or by taking a meat cleaver to vital programs. Sometimes, leaders just have to do what the people want.
This also isn’t something where politicians can reasonably expect people to do more with less. If lawmakers don’t yet know that, let ‘em whack the Medicaid budget. Watch what happens when their constituents can’t afford or, in some cases, even get services they were used to.
That’s what this survey was telling state leaders as they grapple with how to set and pass a budget. They better be listening.