Daniel Tilson: Truth can free Florida from 'healthcare house of mirrors'

Floridians deserve clarity on healthcare reform. After years of confusion and consternation caused by opponents of the Affordable Care Act, it’s no wonder much of Main Street Florida is unfazed by or unaware of details of last week’s melodramatic work stoppage in the Florida Legislature.

Sure, some people are disgusted and fed up, while others are inspired and fired up, depending on their points of view. But most folks outside political party, government and activist circles are just looking the other way. Most see this as business-as-usual bickering and gridlock in a government they have little if any control over, or vested interest in.

To get such people to engage and join in consensus-building on this key issue, our elected public servants must take responsibility for sharing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Any officials who shirk that responsibility must be held accountable, preferably at the ballot box.

Case in point…

Last week, after shutting down the Florida House four days early due to an impasse with the Senate on healthcare reform, Speaker Steve Crisafulli had an explanatory OpEd published in the Miami Herald, titled, “Why I oppose the expansion of Medicaid.”

Crisafulli wrote that Medicaid “currently covers 3.7 million Floridians at a cost of $23.5 billion per year, or about one-third of Florida’s budget” – concealing the truth that the federal government pays 60 percent of that total, meaning the actual annual cost to Floridians is $9.5 billion, or about 12 percent of Florida’s budget.

Having laid an untrustworthy foundation by misrepresenting the truth of Medicaid’s cost to Florida, Crisafulli went on to build a case rife with deception and error: “We oppose expanding Medicaid because it is a broken system with poor health outcomes, unseverable federal strings and no incentive for personal responsibility…”

That sums up the conservative Republican storyline about Medicaid. It’s a story written and endlessly retold in order to get both successful and struggling white, middle-class Floridians to harden their hearts and narrow their minds about poor people in need. And it works.

Problem is…generalizing about “poor health outcomes” is a disingenuous distortion of the truth. You can read all about it for yourself if interested in the details – and not from a liberal think tank, rather the revered, rigidly nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation.

Another problem…is referencing “unseverable federal strings.” That’s an outright lie. The fact of the matter is, Florida can “opt out” of any federally funded solution to closing the Florida uninsured gap.

And one more problem, for now…is with the “no incentive for personal responsibility” line of attack. The truth is, the Senate plan for closing the coverage gap with a privatesector program includes conservative “personal responsibility” requirements for job training, education and employment.

That’s just a sampler of the half-truths and lies in the Crisafulli OpEd. He also offered tired old conservative proposals for alternative healthcare “reforms” – from expanded telemedicine and medical malpractice reform, to letting consumers buy insurance across state lines. To compare such marginal moves to the Affordable Care Act’s landmark, life-saving new consumer protections, and its coverage of more than 1.6 million uninsured Floridians, so far…speaks for itself.

Half-truths may work when pandering to the Republican base. But Crisafulli, fellow House Republicans and Gov. Rick Scott owe it to the rest of us, to the vast majority of Floridians, to stop acting as if we’re part of that base and stick to verifiable facts and the whole truth moving forward.

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Daniel Tilson


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