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COLUMN

Happytown

The feds give a royal two fingers to Medicaid privatization, the Dems shout down Dan Webster and not all chambers are full of secrets

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2003:02:05 15:01:49


While we were hacking up the royal phlegm of the annual Happytown flu on Friday morning - staring blankly at our 
6 a.m. flatscreen, waiting for ginger Prince Harry to grab his best man(hood) and, well, propose to us - it flashed into our heads that, hey, we're poor and sick! Wonder what the state legislature would have to say about that? Well, you may know that, in his infinite compassionate wisdom, Republican House Speaker Dean Cannon (along with his CannonHair™ Senate compatriot Mike Haridopolos) has had his sites set on effectively dismantling Medicaid as we know it before that new federal health care thing kicks in. It's all in the name of privatization, natch, and given that the state has gotten away with a pilot program in five of Florida's counties since 2006 - even amid complaints that half of the 200,000 people being serviced by the program have been dropped or shuffled between various health plans - Cannon is hoping to get some form of his heartless dream for the entire state passed this legislative session.

Or not? According to a report in the Miami Herald, the federal government folks who actually know about these things, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, drafted a letter to the state on April 28 that basically forbid it from taking the system private statewide, mostly because the House and Senate can't really agree on the details; also, the federal government actually funds half of the state's $20 billion in annual Medicaid expenditures, so there. Somewhat hilariously, the Senate has threatened to withdraw the state from Medicaid altogether if CMS doesn't allow the program to expand; the House is not quite ready to make that leap.

The problems within the pilot program are hard to quantify - private companies are not really big on transparency, see - but anecdotally speaking, at least five providers have pulled out of the program in Broward County citing low profits, doctors are pissed at the insurance "red tape" and patients aren't able to see specialists. The only thing it improves? The chances that somebody is making money and more people are probably dying. Yay, Florida!

The more things change, the
more they stay the same. What comes around, goes around. Depending on your political ideology and your sense of county history, you'd choose one cliché or the other to contextualize the clusterfuck that was Congressman Daniel Webster's "Spigot of Spending" town hall meeting on April 26.

Back from the nation's Capitol with a series of graphs in hand, Webster stood at the front of a packed Orange County Education Extension Center auditorium and acted as public relations flack for the controversial budget plan passed by the U.S. House last month. Webster implored the audience to notice that by cutting $5.8 trillion in federal spending over the next decade, Republican fiscal outlay graph lines will be flatter, sexier and more sustainable than those of the Obama administration. "We don't have a tax problem, we have a spending problem," Webster said, predictably.

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