THE BLOG

The Poor Deemed as Insignificant in the Florida Health Care Reform Implementation War

06/19/2013 03:08 pm ET | Updated Aug 19, 2013

There is an old African proverb that says, "When the elephants are at war, it is the grass that suffers." Unfortunately, politics have trumped people and posturing has overtaken progress as it pertains to many critical issues facing the nation. The result has been that much of the citizenry has been delegated as insignificant grass.

In the area of health care, even after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been passed, several governors and state Legislatures are turning away billions of dollars for Medicaid expansion that would provide health insurance for the poor. More than a million people in the state of Florida are currently being blocked from health care coverage by certain members of the state's legislature because it appears to be bad politics in their home district to support anything originating from the Obama administration.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who originally opposed the Medicaid expansion, has since said that he supports it but has yet to call the legislature back in for a special session. Many Floridians are now scratching their heads after he recently called the federal health law a "disaster."

"While the Governor may believe that the federal health care law is a disaster, I'm sure he'd agree that having 1.2 million uninsured Floridians going without coverage would be an even greater disaster," said State Senator Dwight Bullard of Florida. "When you think about it, Floridians have already paid for the coverage through the tax dollars they send to Washington, D.C., each year. This is just a matter of those dollars coming back to our state."

Many progressives celebrated when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed by President Obama after a decades long battle to keep the issue on the agenda and get it passed. Many mistakenly believed, though, that process was over after the bill's passage. The signing of the legislation was not the end of the process but rather the beginning of the implementation phase. It is this implementation stage that will ultimately shape how the policy will be delivered.

For the fruits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be fully implemented and realized in Florida, Gov. Scott must call a special session to bring legislators back to Tallahassee to finish the business of bringing affordable health care to those who need it in the state. There must be pressure from a broad coalition to contend against intense obstructionism at the state and local levels to make sure that the poor are not insignificant casualties of a hyper-partisan political war.