The start of 2013 has already been a shaky one with the painful fiscal-cliff negotiations and the unfortunate outcome that continued Washington’s bad habit of increasing taxes without addressing their outrageous spending habits, all while pandering to a few favored constituents with messages of success. Well Floridians need to get ready because Washington is trying to push their spending habits on our legislature, and if they succeed we will be footing the bill.
What financial disaster are we referring to? ObamaCare, of course!
Yes, the Affordable Care Act was found mostly constitutional. However, our Florida legislature still has a number of decisions that they can make regarding implementation of the law, and these decisions come with costly consequences. The two most important decisions that our elected officials have in front of them are whether or not to create a state based Health Care Exchange and whether they should expand Medicaid.
So far, our Governor has stated that the Federal government has not provided enough information regarding state exchanges for him to be comfortable setting one up. The feds have tied up the state exchange process in so much red-tape and requirements that the state would be acting as an arm of the federal government. Twenty-five governors have stated they will not implement a state exchange, and hopefully Florida will remain solidly in this camp. A state exchange will offer little, if any, flexibility to Florida’s officials in determining what’s best for our residents, as the feds have to approve all decisions, plans, and changes that are made. However, the state based exchange will cost Floridians – as we will have to fully fund it at a cost of as much as $100 million a year!
But if you think that sounds like a raw deal, just wait. Sitting on the sidelines, not far behind the state exchange, is Medicaid expansion. Expansion may sound like a nice idea, and has been painted by ObamaCare supporters as a necessity to provide more healthcare for more Americans. But what they leave out of their portrayal is the exorbitant costs that taxpayers will have to shell out for this expanded entitlement.
Currently, healthcare costs are the largest expenditure in Florida’s budget, with Medicaid already consuming more than 30% of state spending each year, approximately $21 billion for 2012-13 to cover Florida’s 3 million Medicaid enrollees. Over the last 21 years Florida’s population has grown by less than 50% but Florida’s Medicaid program has grown by 300%. It is not unlikely that, on it’s current path, Medicaid could consume as much as 50% of our state budget in the next decade.
The Florida legislature passed patient-centered reforms for our current Medicaid system in 2011, to provide better services and more cost efficiencies. They have been waiting for two years on the Federal government to approve waivers that would allow these reforms to be enacted. But so far the Feds have shown they don’t want reform, they just want expansion of a broken program — rife with fraud, over-spending and inefficiency, that has failed miserably at providing quality healthcare services for recipients.
Not only is expansion of a broken Medicaid system a bad solution, it’s an expensive one. A recent report released by Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration estimated that Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare will cost $63 billion or more over the next ten years, up to $26 billion dollars of which would be paid directly by Floridians. Historically, estimated costs for government health care programs have been drastically understated so reality tells us that Medicaid expansion could actually cost much, much more.
Florida’s elected officials need to take a stand against the Federal government, and support Governor Scott’s continued refusal to let Florida go over the health care cliff. Expanding a broken Medicaid system is not the solution to providing better health care for the poor, and frankly, we can’t afford it.