Medicaid Archives - Page 5 of 33 - Florida Politics

Andy Gardiner, Lars Houmann, call for more health care access, but not Medicaid

At an industry-sponsored summit in Orlando Tuesday, outgoing Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner and the leader of one of Florida’s biggest hospital system both called for urgent help in providing more access to health care.

But not through Medicaid.

Gardiner, an Orlando Republican, and Lars Houmann, president of the Florida Division of Adventist Health System, told the Florida Health Care Affordability Summit that the great challenge is opening up health care to uninsured and low-income residents of Florida.

“I would encourage you to also talk about access, and access for all individuals,” Gardiner told the forum, organized by the Associated Industries of Florida.

They both said Florida has another chance, and should take it, to negotiate with the federal government for a waiver from the federal Medicaid program that might allow the Sunshine State to take federal Medicaid expansion money but use it for alternative programs to Medicaid.

For the past three years, the federal government has been trying to encourage states to accept money to expand Medicaid programs to provide coverage for people too poor to buy Obamacare insurance, but who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In Florida’s case, that’s about $50 billion over ten years. Gardiner’s Senate has twice crafted deals to negotiate waivers with the federal government for Florida-driven programs, but the Florida House has refused.

“If the desire in the state of Florida is not necessarily to look at free-market options, that is for a debate for another day, I would encourage you to talk about models like the money we put into free and charitable clinics,” Gardiner said.

Houmann also urged expansion of access to uninsured and laid out economic slides showing what they cost hospitals and Florida.

He also stressed that at Adventist Health, which runs the Florida Hospital systems in Orlando and Tampa Bay, the strategic thinking is turning toward keeping people healthy — keeping them out of hospitals.

Yet he argued that Medicaid is just a bad program for both patients, doctors and hospitals, and should not be expanded, but replaced with something that works better. Medicaid, he argued, comes with too many strings and too little money to be a good business for doctors or hospitals, and patients are punished because few doctors accept it, and their services suffer from overload.

“Yes, it is an entitlement program. Yes, it does take care of a larger part of our population,” he said. “But frankly, I could not put my heart into term ‘expand Medicaid.’

“I could put my heart into bringing the money that the Affordable Care Act made available for Florida for expanding coverage,” he added. “Frankly, this is a political lecture; we did have an opportunity to bring a deal to Washington … to restructure our program. But we couldn’t get that done.”

Martin Dyckman: Rick Scott doesn’t know when to shut up

There was once a senator from Virginia who was dismayed to find his picture on the cover of New Times magazine under the headline “the dumbest Congressman of them all.”

He called a news conference to deny it, thereby proving it to be true.

His name was Scott. William Scott.

You can probably guess where this is going.

From that day in 1974 to now, no public official has so witlessly confirmed the substance of a harsh criticism as Florida Gov. Rick Scott did the other day.

A more prudent man would have shrugged off his chance encounter with the citizen, Cara Jennings, who loudly called him an “asshole.”

Left alone, its notoriety would have subsided after the first 2 million or so YouTube and Facebook views.

But Scott is Scott, with an ego nearly as large as that of his newest buddy, Donald Trump, and a slush fund to match.

His Let’s Get to Work political committee swiftly made and posted a video savagely disparaging Jennings.

Unlike a bystander’s smartphone cinema verité video of the original incident at a Gainesville Starbucks, Scott’s riposte is a professional job. A professional hit job.

In the course of claiming that thousands of new jobs have been created in that Gainesville neighborhood, the announcer says “almost everybody” has a job, “except those who are sitting around coffee shops demanding public assistance, surfing the Internet and cursing at customers who come in.”

A former Lake Worth city commissioner, Jennings is a self-described anarchist who refused on principle to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Scott’s body slam harps on her background and calls her a “latte liberal” before getting around to implying that she’s a freeloader.

In fact, she is a freelance consultant who says she was in Gainesville on business, stopped for coffee at Starbucks, and was at work on her computer when Scott walked in. What’s more, she said she doesn’t get a dime of public assistance.

“What I find very offensive is for him to infer that I’m unemployed and just hanging out at Starbucks,” she told me. “I’ve never seen this type of attack against a private citizen.”

Neither have I. To trade public punches with another politician, or a media critic, is an accepted part of the game. To defame a private citizen — one who wasn’t even responsible for publicizing the original incident — is out of bounds.

Some people I know, having seen only the Starbucks video, which begins partway through their confrontation, were critical of Jennings for shouting at Scott.

But to hear the whole story is to understand why she lost her temper.

She began by upbraiding him for refusing to expand Medicaid and for signing a bill to keep state money away from Planned Parenthood, and says “you should be ashamed to show your face around here.”

That’s tough language, to be sure, but nothing worse than what hundreds of editorials have said.

Scott then resorts to his standard mantra, his answer for everything, his non-denial denial for any criticism, by replying that Florida has gotten 1 million jobs on his watch. That’s when she loses it.

As he retreats, she shouts, “A million jobs? Great. Who here has a great job or is looking forward to finishing school? Do you really feel like you have a job coming up?”

She utters the epithet with which he will forever be identified. That is not so much because it was said, but because he dignified it with a response.

For the governor to claim credit for 1 million jobs is somewhat like boasting of making the sun rise or the tides ebb and flow.

PolitiFact acknowledged the statistic to be mostly true.

“That said, ” it added, “we’ll note one caveat that we always raise when analyzing claims such as Scott’s: It’s a stretch for the governor (or the president, or a mayor) to claim credit for such gains.

“But even if governors do deserve some credit for how the economy performs on their watch, there are other things over which they have no control that can have impacts that are at least as big, if not bigger. These include changes in technology, fluctuations in the national and international economy, demographic shifts (the Census Bureau estimates the state’s population has increased by about 1.46 million people since April 2010, for instance), and events like natural disasters.

“Indeed, governors — like presidents — tend to get too much credit when things are going well, and too much blame when things are going poorly.”

Scott bought his way into power when Florida was still recovering from the 2008 recession. The job growth since then owes in some part to President Barack Obama‘s stimulus program, which Scott’s predecessor praised and was rejected by his party for saying so.

In any case, Florida’s job growth is beside the point that Jennings wanted to impress on Scott. It’s that his policies have condemned thousands of Floridians to needless sickness and death for want of the Medicaid expansion money. The spiteful defunding of Planned Parenthood will make that worse.

The name she called him hardly seems too strong for that.

***

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times. He lives in suburban Asheville, North Carolina.

Martin Dyckman: Rick Scott doesn't know when to shut up

There was once a senator from Virginia who was dismayed to find his picture on the cover of New Times magazine under the headline “the dumbest Congressman of them all.”

He called a news conference to deny it, thereby proving it to be true.

His name was Scott. William Scott.

You can probably guess where this is going.

From that day in 1974 to now, no public official has so witlessly confirmed the substance of a harsh criticism as Florida Gov. Rick Scott did the other day.

A more prudent man would have shrugged off his chance encounter with the citizen, Cara Jennings, who loudly called him an “asshole.”

Left alone, its notoriety would have subsided after the first 2 million or so YouTube and Facebook views.

But Scott is Scott, with an ego nearly as large as that of his newest buddy, Donald Trump, and a slush fund to match.

His Let’s Get to Work political committee swiftly made and posted a video savagely disparaging Jennings.

Unlike a bystander’s smart phone cinema verité video of the original incident at a Gainesville Starbucks, Scott’s riposte is a professional job. A professional hit job.

In the course of claiming that thousands of new jobs have been created in that Gainesville neighborhood, the announcer says “almost everybody” has a job, “except those who are sitting around coffee shops demanding public assistance, surfing the internet and cursing at customers who come in.”

A former Lake Worth city commissioner, Jennings is a self-described anarchist who refused on principle to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Scott’s body slam harps on her background and calls her a “latte liberal” before getting around to implying that she’s a free-loader.

In fact, she is a free-lance consultant who says she was in Gainesville on business, stopped for coffee at Starbucks, and was at work on her computer when Scott walked in. What’s more, she said she doesn’t get a dime of public assistance.

“What I find very offensive is for him to infer that I’m unemployed and just hanging out at Starbucks,” she told me. “I’ve never seen this type of attack against a private citizen.”

Neither have I. To trade public punches with another politician or a media critic is an accepted part of the game. To defame a private citizen — one who wasn’t even responsible for publicizing the original incident — is out of bounds.

Some people I know, having seen only the Starbucks video, which begins partway through their confrontation, were critical of Jennings for shouting at Scott.

But to hear the whole story is to understand why she lost her temper.

She began by upbraiding him for refusing to expand Medicaid and for signing a bill to keep state money away from Planned Parenthood, and says “you should be ashamed to show your face around here.”

That’s tough language, to be sure, but nothing worse than what hundreds of editorials have said.

Scott then resorts to his standard mantra, his answer for everything, his non-denial denial for any criticism, by replying that Florida has gotten 1 million jobs on his watch. That’s when she loses it.

As he retreats, she shouts, “A million jobs? Great. Who here has a great job or is looking forward to finishing school? Do you really feel like you have a job coming up?”

She utters the epithet with which he will forever be identified. That is not so much because it was said, but because he dignified it with a response.

For the governor to claim credit for 1 million jobs is somewhat like boasting of making the sun rise or the tides ebb and flow.

Politifact acknowledged the statistic to be mostly true.

“That said, ” it added, “we’ll note one caveat that we always raise when analyzing claims such as Scott’s: It’s a stretch for the governor (or the president, or a mayor) to claim credit for such gains.

“But even if governors do deserve some credit for how the economy performs on their watch, there are other things over which they have no control that can have impacts that are at least as big, if not bigger. These include changes in technology, fluctuations in the national and international economy, demographic shifts (the Census Bureau estimates the state’s population has increased by about 1.46 million people since April 2010, for instance), and events like natural disasters.

“Indeed, governors — like presidents — tend to get too much credit when things are going well, and too much blame when things are going poorly.”

Scott bought his way into power when Florida was still recovering from the 2008 recession. The job growth since then owes in some part to President Barack Obama’s stimulus program, which Scott’s predecessor praised and was rejected by his party for saying so.

In any case, Florida’s job growth is beside the point that Jennings wanted to impress on Scott. It’s that his policies have condemned thousands of Floridians to needless sickness and death for want of the Medicaid expansion money. The spiteful defunding of Planned Parenthood will make that worse.

The name she called him hardly seems too strong for that.

***

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times. He lives in suburban Asheville, North Carolina. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

New video: Let’s Get to Work calls Rick Scott heckler a “latte liberal”

Let’s Get to Work, the political fundraising committee affiliated with Gov. Rick Scott, is striking back against the Starbucks patron who called him an “a**hole” this week, labeling her a “latte liberal” in a new video. 

The 1-minute clip surfaced Friday on the group’s website and YouTube.

The governor had stopped into a Gainesville Starbucks when former Lake Worth City Commissioner and self-professed “anarchist” Cara Jennings dressed him down in a separate video that went viral.

“You’re an a**hole. You don’t care about working people,” she shouted at Scott, referring to his refusal to accept the federal government’s Medicaid expansion program in Florida. “You should be ashamed to show your face around here.”

When Scott tried to defend himself by saying a million new jobs had been created while he’s been in office, she countered: “A million jobs? Great, who here has a great job?”

In response, the group’s video calls her “a terribly rude woman” and replays some of the original viral video, including the “a**hole” remark, unbleeped.

It calls her out for being a “former government official who refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.” It then notes that “9,300 new jobs” have been created in the Gainesville area, and unemployment was cut in half.

“So who has a great job?” the narrator asks. “Almost everybody. Except those who are sitting around coffee shops, demanding public assistance, surfing the Internet and cursing at customers who come in.”

Jennings, who couldn’t be reached Friday, was rated on her rants in the original video by PolitiFact Florida, which judged her claims “half true.”

Let’s Get to Work last reported cash on hand of $848,513, state campaign finance records show.

Rick Scott gets earful from angry Florida woman at Gainesville Starbucks

During a visit to a Starbucks in downtown Gainesville, Gov. Rick Scott got an earful from an angry woman over his refusal to expand Medicaid to low-income Floridians.

“You cut Medicaid so I couldn’t get Obamacare,” the woman, identified as former Lake Worth City Commissioner Cara Jennings, yells at Scott. “You’re an asshole. You don’t care about working people. You should be ashamed to show your face around here.”

The 47-second video was captured by another patron and uploaded by YouTube user Stephen Bender.

When Scott responded that he created 1 million jobs, Jennings was less than impressed.

“A million jobs?” she answered incredulously while looking around. “Great, who here has a great job? I was looking forward to finishing school. You really feel you have a job coming up?”

Jennings then scolded the governor for stripping money and assets of public health care.

“Shame on you Rick Scott,” she added. “We depend on those services. Rich people like you don’t know what to do.”

As Scott walked out the door, Jennings called him an “embarrassment to our state.”

Jennings is no stranger to controversy. Before serving two terms as a Lake Worth City Commissioner, she was one of the founding members of the “Radical Cheerleaders,” a mostly female group of protesters for a variety of political causes.

Writing for In These Times, Andrew Stelzer described the Cheerleaders in 2006 as such:

“Their fishnet-stocking, punked-out leather outfits and shredded garbage bag pom-poms caught on, as did their obscenity-laced chants against the neo-liberal agenda, the WTO and various other political causes. As the worldwide protest movement rose in the late ‘90s, the radical cheerleaders became fixtures at anti-globalization rallies, and cheerleading troupes have sprung up around the world.”

Jennings, a self-described “anarchist,” won a seat on the Lake Worth City Commission in 2006 to the surprise of some, serving through 2010. She told The Palm Beach Post that she remains an active participant in city meetings and civil discussions after leaving office.

With her background of political activism, it is less than surprising that Jennings took the golden opportunity to accost Scott in the Starbucks, being in the right place at the right time.

The video is now available on YouTube.

Report says Medicaid expansion would help Florida patients with mental problems, substance abuse disorders

Expanding Medicaid would greatly help the nearly 1 million uninsured Floridians who have a substance abuse or mental health issue.

That according to a policy brief released Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report examines how Medicaid expansion would affect people with a substance-use disorder or mental illness.

In particular, it focuses on the 19 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid (such as Florida) and issues such as substance abuse disorders, and mental and behavioral health programs that often go untreated among poor and uninsured people.

“Medicaid expansion offers clear benefits to states,” Vikki Wachino, director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said on a conference call with media outlets.

Wachino noted that in states where Medicaid has been expanded to cover more patients, there’s been a decrease in residents skipping medication, along with those having trouble paying medical bills. Additionally, Wachino said the expansion is saving hospital systems billions of dollars.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid to low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act. Louisiana will soon be the 31st.

The Florida House last year voted down a proposal to expand Medicaid, arguing that paying for the program over the long term would be too expensive.

However, states that expand the program see big reductions  in the amount of uncompensated care provided by hospitals, said Richard Frank, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“That goes straight to the bottom line of hospitals that are often stretched. People with mental health and substance abuse disorders tend to be disproportionately uninsured, so they contribute quite a bit to that uncompensated care amount. That’s one financial impact that expansion would have.

“The consequences of a state’s decision to reject Medicaid expansion are far-reaching and have major implications for the health of their citizens,” Frank said.

The Affordable Care Act provides coverage to states for the full cost of Medicaid expansion through 2016. Then financial support drops down to 90 percent by 2020, although President Barack Obama has since proposed that the federal government fund 100 percent of the cost for three full years to any state that expands Medicaid.

Martin Dyckman: Cruzing to a police state?

The economist John Kenneth Galbraith memorably said that politics “consists of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”

But what if the only choice is between the disastrous and the disastrous?

That’s the predicament of establishment Republican politicians who think John Kasich, the only decent human being who remains in their presidential primaries, is either too liberal (i.e., he accepted the Medicaid money) or too unlikely to limp to the finish line at the Cleveland convention.

Chris Christie, ever the opportunist, forgot every truth he had told about Donald Trump’s spectacular lack of qualifications and endorsed him. You could say he sold his soul for a Cabinet post, but that would raise the question of whether he had one to sell.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, admitting out of one side of his face that Kasich would make the better president, out of the other endorsed Ted Cruz.

That is the same Lindsey Graham who, while supporting Jeb Bush, said that if “you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”

Mitt Romney came out for Cruz too. He all but begged Kasich to quit the race.

Then Bush himself, whose noblest characteristic was that he’s no bigot, endorsed Cruz, who’s just as dangerous a bigot as Trump. Bush called him “a consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests.”

Only a few hours later, that “principled conservative” called for a Castro-style police presence in American Muslim neighborhoods.

Turkey has suffered more bombings recently than any other of our NATO allies. Just this month, at least 41 people died in blasts at Ankara and Istanbul. But Cruz said nothing about that outbreak of terror. Perhaps it was because most of the victims were Muslims.

Then came the terror in Brussels.

That’s when he called for American police to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

What would be next? Gated ghettoes? Special ID cards? Yellow crescents to be sewn on their clothing?

President Barack Obama, referring to his just-completed visit to Cuba, had the perfect putdown for Cruz.

“I just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance, which, by the way, the father of Senator Cruz escaped for America, the land of the free,” the President said.

Trump, meanwhile, used the Brussels tragedy as yet another opportunity to indulge his sick fascination with torture. His Sadean fixation with hurting people is becoming a subject more for psychiatry than political science.

Anyone who talks like either Cruz or Trump is unfit to be president. Any politician who endorses either of them is clueless as to what a “principled conservative” really is, and can hardly be considered one himself.

There’s one principle, though, that Bush and Cruz apparently share. It’s to cut taxes for the rich and raise them on the poor. Citizens for Tax Justice calculated that Cruz’s scheme, more extreme even than Bush’s, would cost $13.9 trillion over 10 years either as added debt or a demolished government. It also would give the top 1 per cent an average tax cut of $435,000 a year.

Interestingly, that doesn’t seem to be endearing Cruz to the billionaire Koch brothers and the other big-money Republican establishment campaign contributors.

Perhaps it’s because they don’t think even Cruz can stop Trump. And Trump is their worst nightmare — someone they doubt that they could control.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that the Koch network is considering investing most of its $900 million campaign budget on protecting what it can control — its Republican allies in the Congress.

“A key element of the strategy,” the newspaper said, “will be a springtime wave of television ads that slam Democratic contenders and tout Republican incumbents as attuned to hometown concerns. Strategists hope the efforts will help inoculate congressional candidates against association with Trump’s incendiary remarks.”

For example, the article said, one super-PAC in the Koch network is spending $1 million to prop up New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, while another is attacking Ohio’s former Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, who’s running against Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

It means they figure Trump for a general election loser who would cost them the Senate and many seats in the House.

It’s a cynical strategy that makes perfect sense. It should have made sense to Graham and Bush too.

In that scenario, continued Republican control of one or both houses would frustrate anything that either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would want to do — such as appointing any moderate to liberal Supreme Court justice.

Just as they have frustrated nearly everything Obama has wanted to do.

***

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times. He lives in suburban Asheville, North Carolina. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Diane Roberts: Florida GOP voters don’t want to think, they just want to believe

So the other jackboot has dropped: Rick Scott endorsed his Soul Brother but only after that big Florida Primary win.

Scott signaled his man-crush back in January, writing breathlessly for USA TODAY that Herr Drumpf reminds him of, well, him: rich, an “outsider,” a business hombre incensed over “endless and tedious regulation and taxation.”

You know, crap like the Clean Water Act. And the Voting Rights Act.

Still, Scott couldn’t quite bring himself to come out all the way for the eccentrically coiffed braggart until he saw which way Florida Republicans would blow. After all, they’re the people he needs to propel him to the United States Senate in 2018.

He’s betting (and the evidence is pretty compelling, see 2010 and 2014) that a large hunk of Florida voters no longer care about qualifications or competence. They just want to elect somebody who will throw epic tantrums on their behalf. Somebody who’ll show those uppity feminists and gays and Black Lives Matter kids who’s boss. Somebody who’ll make America white male again.

They don’t want problem-solvers. They want a megaphone.

Meanwhile, the denizens of Punditland are trying to get their heads around what happened to Florida’s once-golden homeboys.

Jeb was the Bush to beat, the Smart One, the guy who’d raised so much money nobody could touch him. Marco Rubio was young, Latino, telegenic and energetic: the new Face of the 21st century GOP.

Ted Cruz? Everybody hates him, especially his fellow senators. You can’t run a serious presidential campaign with no friends. John Kasich? One of those moderate Republicans. He accepted Obamacare in Ohio. He’ll be gone by Iowa.

And as for Trump: are you kidding? The guy’s an idiot. He’s going nowhere.

Yeah.

Got it wrong, didn’t we?

Perhaps not entirely: Cruz is despised by most rational people. Trump is indeed an idiot — the way Mussolini was an idiot. Mean, cunning and narcissistic.

But Rubio wasn’t such a fresh face, after all. His political “philosophy” was opportunism with a spritz of Reagan-lite: path to citizenship for undocumented aliens? Sure — until it upsets the base.

And Bush, well, even Republicans persisting in a perverse fondness for George W. didn’t warm to his “little brother” Jeb. Where George W. won people over by being just as ignorant and incurious — but friendly — as they were, Jeb spouted passionless policy, specifics and other egghead-ish stuff.

The truth is that Bush and Rubio were both lackluster candidates, products of Florida’s intellectually bankrupt GOP, a party which was, 35 years ago, strangely progressive on the environment and on social issues, but which now exists — much like the old Pork Chop Democrats — merely to perpetuate their own power.

Bush beat two weak Democrats for governor in 1998 and 2002, kept his nerve in the 2000 presidential vote recount, and tried to dismantle public education in Florida. Somehow that made him look like presidential material — at least to old-line party faithful.

Rubio got himself a couple of fat jobs out of law school, including a teaching gig at FIU funded by private donors, before he hit the Florida House and became Speaker at age 35.

He was elected to the US Senate in 2010, beating former Gov. Charlie Crist. That seemed like a mighty coup. But remember that 2010 was the year the Tea Party grabbed their pitchforks and tricorn hats: that guy in the White House was a Kenyan Muslim socialist atheist revolutionary who was going to get his dusky government hands on their doctors!

And 2010 was also the year Florida elected as governor a guy whose company drew the largest fine in history for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid.

Rick Scott still isn’t in jail.

The signs were there. Bush and Rubio should have noticed that the re-election of Scott indicated that the people of Florida were not inclined to critical thinking. And those two establishment Republicans had nothing to offer an electorate angrier than ever over things they barely understand: the Iran nuclear deal (no, the US is not “giving” Iran $150 billion); detente with Cuba; marriage equality; the Paris climate change agreement. Rubio tried the optimistic “New American Century” thing. Bush didn’t do “shining city on the hill.” He just touted his mixed record as governor of Florida — and his famous name.

They tried and failed to counter Trump’s bombast, his bread and circuses, his witless sloganeering about “winning” and “deals,” his boasting about bringing back torture and suing newspapers he doesn’t like and making everybody say, “Merry Christmas.”

But you don’t beat rage with policy. And you don’t vanquish a pig by getting down in the mud with him. You can’t win against the promise of “greatness.”

Republican voters in Florida no longer want to think. They just want to believe.

***

Diane Roberts is the author of “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America.” She teaches at Florida State University.

Diane Roberts: Florida GOP voters don’t want to think, they just want to believe

So the other jackboot has dropped: Rick Scott endorsed his Soul Brother but only after that big Florida Primary win.

Scott signaled his man-crush back in January, writing breathlessly for USA Today that Herr Drumpf reminds him of, well, him: rich, an “outsider,” a business hombre incensed over “endless and tedious regulation and taxation.”

You know, crap like the Clean Water Act. And the Voting Rights Act.

Still, Scott couldn’t quite bring himself to come out all the way for the eccentrically coiffed braggart until he saw which way Florida Republicans would blow. After all, they’re the people he needs to propel him to the United States Senate in 2018.

He’s betting (and the evidence is pretty compelling, see 2010 and 2014) that a large hunk of Florida voters no longer care about qualifications or competence. They just want to elect somebody who will throw epic tantrums on their behalf. Somebody who’ll show those uppity feminists and gays and Black Lives Matter kids who’s boss. Somebody who’ll make America white male again.

They don’t want problem-solvers. They want a megaphone.

Meanwhile, the denizens of Punditland are trying to get their heads around what happened to Florida’s once-golden homeboys.

Jeb was the Bush to beat, the Smart One, the guy who’d raised so much money nobody could touch him. Marco Rubio was young, Latino, telegenic and energetic: the new Face of the 21st century GOP.

Ted Cruz? Everybody hates him, especially his fellow senators. You can’t run a serious presidential campaign with no friends. John Kasich? One of those moderate Republicans. He accepted Obamacare in Ohio. He’ll be gone by Iowa.

And as for Trump: are you kidding? The guy’s an idiot. He’s going nowhere.

Yeah.

Got it wrong, didn’t we?

Perhaps not entirely: Cruz is despised by most rational people. Trump is indeed an idiot — the way Mussolini was an idiot. Mean, cunning and narcissistic.

But Rubio wasn’t such a fresh face, after all. His political “philosophy” was opportunism with a spritz of Reagan-lite: path to citizenship for undocumented aliens? Sure — until it upsets the base.

And Bush, well, even Republicans persisting in a perverse fondness for George W. didn’t warm to his “little brother” Jeb. Where George W. won people over by being just as ignorant and incurious — but friendly — as they were, Jeb spouted passionless policy, specifics and other eggheadish stuff.

The truth is that Bush and Rubio were both lackluster candidates, products of Florida’s intellectually bankrupt GOP, a party which was, 35 years ago, strangely progressive on the environment and on social issues, but which now exists — much like the old Pork Chop Democrats — merely to perpetuate their own power.

Bush beat two weak Democrats for governor in 1998 and 2002, kept his nerve in the 2000 presidential vote recount, and tried to dismantle public education in Florida. Somehow that made him look like presidential material — at least to old-line party faithful.

Rubio got himself a couple of fat jobs out of law school, including a teaching gig at FIU funded by private donors, before he hit the Florida House and became Speaker at age 35.

He was elected to the US Senate in 2010, beating former Gov. Charlie Crist. That seemed like a mighty coup. But remember that 2010 was the year the Tea Party grabbed their pitchforks and tricorn hats: that guy in the White House was a Kenyan Muslim socialist atheist revolutionary who was going to get his dusky government hands on their doctors!

And 2010 was also the year Florida elected as governor a guy whose company drew the largest fine in history for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid.

Rick Scott still isn’t in jail.

The signs were there. Bush and Rubio should have noticed that the re-election of Scott indicated that the people of Florida were not inclined to critical thinking. And those two establishment Republicans had nothing to offer an electorate angrier than ever over things they barely understand: the Iran nuclear deal (no, the US is not “giving” Iran $150 billion); detente with Cuba; marriage equality; the Paris climate change agreement. Rubio tried the optimistic “New American Century” thing. Bush didn’t do “shining city on the hill.” He just touted his mixed record as governor of Florida — and his famous name.

They tried and failed to counter Trump’s bombast, his bread and circuses, his witless sloganeering about “winning” and “deals,” his boasting about bringing back torture and suing newspapers he doesn’t like and making everybody say, “Merry Christmas.”

But you don’t beat rage with policy. And you don’t vanquish a pig by getting down in the mud with him. You can’t win against the promise of “greatness.”

Republican voters in Florida no longer want to think. They just want to believe.

***

Diane Roberts is the author of Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She teaches at Florida State University. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Lawmakers make case for dental carve-out bill at Session’s end

Aiming to protect children’s dental insurance under Medicaid, GOP lawmakers held a news conference on Day 60 of the 2016 Legislative Session.

They sought support for the bill, which separates kids’ Medicaid dental insurance from other medical coverage, and to avert a possible veto from Gov. Rick Scott.

Senate President-designate Joe Negron and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz spoke to reporters to burnish their bill, saying it follows national trends and would administer care more efficiently. Both legislators said having a separate policy and benefit card for general medical and dental care cuts out HMO middlemen who subcontract with the same entities the state could deal with directly.

“If you look at states that are making this decision now, they are overwhelmingly going with the independent model,” Negron said. “The states with the highest utilization rates … are going with the model we have proposed.

The Legislature recently approved a similar separation for inmates under the Department of Corrections, said Negron. He said Florida’s children deserve at least the same.

Sen. Alan Hays, a practicing dentist, endorsed the move as well.

“Dentistry is a unique profession, and it deserves to have a unique plan to administer it,” Hays said. He also said that a federal rule mandating that 85 percent of dental funding goes to care – as opposed to overhead – is abrogated when dental and general medical care are intermingled.

Negron said that despite heavy lobbying efforts on behalf of state health care plan interests, ultimately his carve-out will be enacted into law.

“I think when ultimately Governor Scott will look closely at this issue and make the best decision for Florida’s children,” Negron said, “so that children who receive their dental care from Medicaid are treated as much as possible like everyone else in Florida.”

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