Florida wasted no time in challenging the federal health care reform overhaul, filing a lawsuit just minutes after President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law last year. Twenty-five other states joined that suit, which led to a U.S. district court ruling in January declaring the entire law unconstitutional. Few of those states have allowed principal to block their path to the federal trough, however.
But despite having the nation's fourth highest unemployment rate, second highest rate of uninsured and a $3.7 billion budget gap this year, Florida has passed on millions of dollars in grants made available under the PPACA, including money to help move long term care patients into their homes, curb child abuse through in-home counseling and strengthen state regulation of health premiums.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said that unless the state was ordered to do otherwise by an appellate court, it had no intention of observing the law, even if that means losing out on grant money.
"I don't want to waste either federal money or state money on something that's unconstitutional," he said.
Shortly after U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola invalidated the act, Scott put the brakes on implementing it and began rejecting grants that had been pursued by his more moderate Republican predecessor, Charlie Crist.
Scott, a former hospital company executive, said his office had made case-by-case decisions about whether particular grants fit with the state's own health reform plan, enacted this year, which will shift most Medicaid recipients into managed care programs.
"We have a Medicaid plan, so if it fits with that plan, then we're interested, and if it doesn't, we're not," he said.
Critics say the state's Republican leaders have gone too far in opposing the federal health reform law.
"It's simply unconscionable that they're turning back federal tax dollars that our citizens and businesses pay and sending those tax dollars to other states," said state Rep. Kathy Castor (D). "Florida's economy has been hit very hard, and we need every dollar and every job in our state."
But Scott maintains: "There are a lot of programs that the federal government would like to give you that don't fit your state, don't fit your needs and ultimately create obligations that our taxpayers can't afford."
And Rep. Matt Hudson (R), chairman of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, said his chamber's leadership feels the same way.
"I do not believe that act is the right thing for the country or the right thing for Florida," he said, "and I am not going to start implementing things that I don't believe in." (NEW YORK TIMES)
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