State Rep. Mia Jones tried.
In the spirit of compromise, the Democrat from Jacksonville moved right to embrace the health care-expansion plan backed by the Florida Senate: the Florida Healthcare Affordability Insurance Exchange, aka FHIX.
Jones told The Jacksonville Times-Union that she had set aside her doubts about the plan and would “stand on the shoulders” of Florida’s 800,000 working uninsured in her fight to get them covered. She fought for the workers who build our houses in 100-degree heat, clean Florida’s hotel rooms, pour your coffee every morning, and sell you shoes at the mall.
These are able-bodied — for now — adults who, despite working every day, often at multiple jobs, still can’t afford to purchase health insurance. Florida FHIX would have enabled workers who earn up to 138 percent of the poverty level to use federal subsidies — money that Florida taxpayers have already sent to Washington — to buy coverage.
Billed as a free-market solution — as opposed to Obamacare — Florida’s FHIX would have required participants to pay premiums of up to $25 per month and show proof of work, school, or a job search. Among the plan’s advocates was a John-Thrasher-conservative, Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean, who was quoted as saying that this was “not your grandfather’s Medicaid expansion.”
The FHIX plan was, instead, innovative in the way that former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Med-waiver program was innovative when it was introduced about a decade ago.
Like Bush’s plan, FHIX would have used Medicaid funds to pay private entities to meet participants’ healthcare needs. Like Bush’s plan, it could have produced a savings that could be put toward something else. And despite the James Madison Institute’s protestations to the contrary, implementing FHIX would not have been mutually exclusive to pursuing other healthcare reforms.
In fact, in passing up FHIX, lawmakers passed up an opportunity to attach meaningful reforms to the package.
Yes, the Medicaid reimbursement rate needs to be raised. But doesn’t that have a better chance of happening if private insurers are in the negotiating room?
Yes, we could stand to roll out some carefully constructed pilot programs in telemedicine. Why not negotiate with the feds to use Medicaid money to do just that?
Partisan politics, that’s why not. Specifically, it’s the far right’s reliance on a certain, divisive brand of ideology. My husband, the political scientist, calls it “the politics of personal resentment.”
The politics of personal resentment dictates that no one should ever, ever have something that only I deserve. The politics of personal resentment relies, implicitly, on the notion that some people are simply better than other people.
It defaults back to power structures that endow white people, male people, and wealthy people with a sense of automatic authority. It defers to the most powerful, and faults the least among us for being vulnerable.
The politics of personal resentment uses language like “able-bodied adults with no children” to distinguish those people from “the rest of us.” Conjuring the ghost of Ronald Reagan, dog whistles such as “American values” and “welfare queens” echoing in their minds, lawmakers set out to put themselves above the working poor in Florida. Their ideology, you see, depends on these false hierarchies — depends on being “better than.”
The politics of personal resentment blames poor people for being poor, whether or not they’re working one, two, three, or more jobs to feed themselves and their families. It begrudges a hand-up because it can.
Practitioners of this divisive and ugly brand of rhetoric point accusatory fingers at those who simply want a shot at the American Dream. “You’re not worthy,” lawmakers have told 800,000 Floridians. “You are somehow … less.”
We have already decided that we will not, as a nation, turn people away when they’re in need of medical treatment. We’ve already agreed, on an implicit level, that access to quality health care is, like education, essential to equal opportunity.
We’ve now decided, in Florida, to pretend that we give a damn, using the most inefficient means available: the ER as primary care.
But as we turn our backs on people who need a hand up, we need to face the irony: The same people whose ideological intransigence has them scoffing at the workers who fix their cars, or cook their dinners, or change their sheets in Tallahassee hotel rooms have no problem accepting taxpayer-subsidized health care.
Personally, I resent the hell out of them.
Julie Delegal, a University of Florida alumna, is a contributor for Folio Weekly, Jacksonville’s alternative weekly, and writes for the family business, Delegal Law Offices. She lives in Jacksonville. Column courtesy of Context Florida.