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“Florida Gov Scott No Help In Time Of Crisis”: When The Going Gets Tough, Rick Scott Heads Straight For The Airport

Florida Gov. Rick Scott removed his Harry Potter invisibility cloak and flew to Washington the other day.

There he begged for billions of federal dollars from a person he is suing, Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. Burwell patiently listened to the governor and, predictably, sent him back to Florida with nothing.

Last summer the feds informed Scott that the government was phasing out a fund that reimburses local hospitals for taking care of low-income patients, basically replacing it with an expanded version of Medicaid.

At first Scott was in favor of the Medicaid move, even though it was a tangent of Obamacare. Then the governor changed his mind. Later, as an afterthought, he sued Burwell and the HHS.

The state Senate supports Medicaid expansion; the House doesn’t. Tallahassee has been paralyzed by the dispute.

In a snit, the House packed up and adjourned the session early, leaving Florida with no budget. Leaders in the Senate were furious.

Remember, these are all Republicans, ripping at each other like addled meerkats.

And where was the newly re-elected Republican governor, leader of the party?

Gone, is where he was — jetting to crucial functions such as the grand opening of a Wawa gas and convenience store in Fort Myers and the debut of a humongous Ferris wheel in Orlando.

It’s impossible to imagine any of the fully functioning governors in Florida’s past — Lawton Chiles, Bob Graham, Jeb Bush, to name a few — vanishing from Tallahassee during a Code Red meltdown of the Legislature.

But Scott isn’t a functioning governor. He is the emptiest of empty suits — no talent for leadership, no muscle for compromise, no sense whatsoever of the big picture.

When the going gets tough, Scott heads straight for the airport. This is what happens when you elect a guy with his own private jet.

Last week’s trip to Washington was pure theater. Scott’s lawsuit over the low-income health funds is a loser, and he knows it. He was trying to do something to give the impression he was awake and experiencing cognitive activity.

In fact, he has been laser-focused on the future — not Florida’s future, but his own. He’s looking ahead to a possible bid for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

(We’ll pause here while you choke on your cornflakes.)

It’s astounding but true — while the legislative process disintegrated in bitter confusion, the governor was airing TV commercials cheerily touting his imaginary accomplishments.

Yes, they were short commercials. And, yes, little of what he claimed to have done for Florida had actually happened, lawmakers having already tossed his proposed budget into the metaphorical Dumpster.

There were no tax cuts, no hefty increase in spending for public schools, no big boost for Everglades funding. Yet Scott’s commercials made it sound like a done deal.

Relax, Florida. All is well!

Perhaps that’s how it looks from 38,000 feet, though not from the rotunda of the Capitol.

It’s weird for a politician to openly resume campaigning so soon after being re-elected, but weird is the norm for the Scott administration. Since the law prohibits a third term as governor, he can only be thinking about Bill Nelson’s Senate seat.

This would be a far-fetched scenario almost any place except Florida, where Scott has already proven that, if you’re rich enough, there’s no such thing as baggage.

Currently he remains one of the state’s most unpopular political figures. He won the November election mainly because his opposition was Charlie Crist.

Yet with money from his “Let’s Get To Work” political committee, the governor has begun the uphill task of inventing a positive legacy upon which to run three years from now.

In the TV commercials, he plays the role of a hard-charging, hands-on visionary, leading Floridians to prosperity one new job at a time. He smiles. He talks. He is, briefly, visible.

Tallahassee is one of the cities where Scott showed his commercials, yet it didn’t move the needle. He was on the plane when he should have been on the ground.

While the Legislature didn’t need any help disgracing itself, Scott’s disappearing act made things worse by validating the public’s view of all state government as insular and incompetent.

As the House and Senate prepare to reconvene next month, desperately trying to salvage some credibility, the governor seems content with his role on the sidelines, essentially a cheerleader for himself.

Coming soon to a Wawa near you.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 11, 2015

May 13, 2015 Posted by | Florida Legislature, Medicaid Expansion, Rick Scott | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Rick Scott’s Hissy Fit”: Impatiently Snapping His Fingers At Sylvia Burwell Won’t Do Him Any Good

Rick Scott’s clearly a man who expects others to snap to it when he asks for something. But his demand that the Obama administration instantly give him assurances they’ll agree with his construction of an incredibly technical interplay between the Medicaid expansion option he’s now flip-flopped a second time to oppose, and an existing Low-Income Pool program who’s beneficiaries overlap with Medicaid’s, is now turning into a hissy fit, per this report from The Hill‘s Peter Sullivan:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Wednesday demanded an answer from the Obama administration “right now” on the renewal of federal funds for hospitals in his state, amid a showdown over ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.

“I’ve let them know our timeline and we need an answer right now,” Scott told reporters outside the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington after meeting with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

According to HHS, Burwell gave Scott the “preliminary view” that the state’s current proposal falls short of the administration’s requirements.

At issue are federal funds to reimburse hospitals in Florida for treating uninsured people, known as the Low Income Pool (LIP). Scott is suing the Obama administration, alleging that the administration is withholding the funds in an effort to force the state to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare.

The administration counters that Florida is free to expand Medicaid or not, and that the decision on LIP funding will be made “regardless” of whether the state expands Medicaid.

You don’t have to go all the way down into the weeds to understand this; the administration obviously does want to keep the pressure up on Scott to do the right thing, and Florida hospitals are probably giving their Governor holy hell for not only rejecting the cornucopia of dollars from a Medicaid expansion, but jeopardizing their existing federal funds while he’s at it. But in any event, HHS has a good excuse for delaying any final decision on Scott’s proposal for a larger LIP program than would normally be the case:

HHS pointed out that the proposal is still in the middle of a 30-day public comment period in Florida, a step before its final decision on the proposal.

“HHS is continuing to engage with Florida on the state’s LIP proposal, even as the period for public comment in Florida is underway,” the readout said. “HHS heard the Governor’s request for a timely response to help the state meet its budget timeline. HHS believes completion of the public comment period, on-going discussions with the state, and the state’s submission of its proposal to CMS are the next steps in the process.”

That doesn’t meet Scott’s politically driven timetable, of course, so he’s impatiently snapping his fingers at Sylvia Burwell.

Don’t think it will do him any good.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 7, 2015

May 11, 2015 Posted by | Medicaid Expansion, Rick Scott | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Stealth Sequester”: Americans Are Starting To Feel The Pain, They Just Don’t Know It Yet

So far, the much-dreaded “sequester” – some $85 billion in federal spending cuts between March and September 30 – hasn’t been evident to most Americans.

The dire warnings that had issued from the White beforehand – threatening that Social Security checks would be delayed, airport security checks would be clogged, and other federal facilities closed – seem to have been overblown.

Sure, March’s employment report was a big disappointment. But it’s hard to see any direct connection between those poor job numbers and the sequester. The government has been shedding jobs for years. Most of the losses in March were from the Postal Service.

Take a closer look, though, and Americans are starting to feel the pain. They just don’t know it yet.

That’s because so much of what the government does affects the nation in local, decentralized ways. Federal funds find their way to community housing authorities, state unemployment offices, local school districts, private universities, and companies. So it’s hard for most Americans to know the sequester is responsible for the lost funding, lost jobs, or just plain inconvenience.

A tiny sampling: Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts is bracing for a cut of about $51 million in its $685 million of annual federal research grants and contracts. The public schools of Syracuse, New York, will lose over $1 million. The housing authority of Joliet, Illinois, will take a hit of nearly $900,000. Northrop Grumman Information Systems just issued layoff notices to 26 employees at its plant in Lawton, Oklahoma. Unemployment benefits are being cut in Pennsylvania and Utah.

The cuts — and thousands like them — are so particular and localized they don’t feel as if they’re the result of a change in national policy.

It’s just like what happened with the big federal stimulus of 2009 and 2010, but in reverse. Then, money flowed out to so many different places and institutions that most Americans weren’t aware of the stimulus program as a whole.

A second reason the sequester hasn’t been visible is a large share of the cuts are in programs directed at the poor – and America’s poor are often invisible.

For example, the Salt Lake Community Action Program recently closed a food pantry in Murray, Utah, serving more than 1,000 needy people every month. The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium is closing a center that gives alcohol and drug treatment to Native Alaskans.

Some 1,700 poor families in and around Sacramento, California are likely to lose housing vouchers that pay part of their rents. More than 180 students are likely to be dropped from a Head Start program run by the Cincinnati-Hamilton County (Ohio) Community Action Agency.

Most Americans don’t know about these and other cuts because the poor live in different places than the middle class and wealthy. Poverty has become ever more concentrated geographically.

A third reason the sequester is invisible is many people whose jobs are affected by it are being “furloughed” rather than fired. “Furlough” is a euphemism for working shorter workweeks and taking pay cuts.

Two thousand civilian employees at the Army Research Lab in Maryland will be subject to one-day-per-week furloughs starting on April 22, for example, resulting in a 20 percent drop in pay. The Hancock Field Air National Guard Base is furloughing 280 workers. Many federal courts are now closed on Fridays.

Furloughs spread the pain. The hardship isn’t as evident as it would be if it came in the form of mass layoffs. But don’t fool yourself: A 20 percent pay cut is a huge burden for those who have to endure it.

Bear in mind, finally, the sequester is just starting. The sheer scale of it is guaranteed to make it far more apparent in coming months.

Some 140,000 low-income families will lose their housing vouchers, for example. Entire communities that depend mainly on defense-related industries or facilities will take major hits.

If you thought March’s job numbers were disappointing, just wait.

With the sequester, America has adopted austerity economics. Yet austerity economics is the wrong medicine at exactly the wrong time. Look what it’s done to Europe.

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, April 8, 2013

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Sequester | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Justifying Cuts: A Well-Used But Misleading Medicaid Statistic

“Cash-strapped states are also feeling the burden of the Medicaid
entitlement. The program consumes nearly 22 percent of states’ budgets today, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.”

— Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), June 23, 2011, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee

“Medicaid is the lion’s share of that spending burden as it now consumes about 22 percent of state budgets now and will consume $4.6 trillion of Washington’s budget over the next ten years.”

— Former Kentucky governor Ernest Lee Fletcher (R), June 23, 2011, at the same hearing

“Across the country, governors are concerned about the burgeoning cost of Medicaid, which in fiscal 2010 consumed nearly 22 percent of state budgets, according the National Association of State Budget Officers. That’s larger than what states spent on K-12 public schools.”

Washington Post front page article, June 14, 2011

When a statistic is universally tossed around as a certified fact, it’s time to get suspicious.

Such is the case with this oft-cited statistic that 22 percent of state budgets is being gobbled up by Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health coverage for the poor and the disabled. Medicaid supposedly is even dwarfing what is spent on educating children and teenagers.

But note the phrase “state-federal.” There’s billions of dollars in federal money involved, and the “22-percent” statistic obscures that fact. Let’s dig a little deeper into the numbers.

The Facts

Medicaid was a central part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” initiative in the mid-1960s. Each state administers its own Medicaid program, but with federal oversight, federal requirements—and plenty of federal dollars. On average, the federal government provides 57 percent of Medicaid funds.

Initially, Medicaid was focused low-income Americans, but elderly nursing home care has also become a big part of it. The new health care law would also greatly expand eligibility to people up to 133 percent of the official poverty line.

There’s no question that the recession has put pressure on Medicaid spending, as more people lost jobs or income and so became eligible for coverage. The new requirements of the health care law also will boost Medicaid spending.

The assertion that Medicaid is 22 percent of state spending, and thus now exceeds education spending, comes from an annual survey of the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). But if you dig into the report — if you just go to page
one — you will see that this number includes the federal contribution, in what
is known as “total funds.”

If you want to see what states themselves are spending on Medicaid —“general funds” — you have to use another set of statistics.

As NASBO says on page one, “For estimated fiscal 2010, components of general fund spending are elementary and secondary education, 35.7 percent; Medicaid, 15.4 percent; higher education, 12.1 percent; corrections, 7.2 percent; public assistance, 1.9 percent; transportation, 0.8 percent; and all other expenditures, 27.0 percent.”

In other words, without the federal dollars included, Medicaid falls to second place, far behind education. It turns out that on average, states spend 15.4 percent of their funds on Medicaid — not 22 percent.

Brian Sigritz, NASBO’s director of state fiscal studies, said, “You are correct that there are several different ways of looking at Medicaid spending that you can use. If you consider just general funds, K-12 easily remains the largest component of general fund spending, as it historically has been.”

Indeed, when you look at NASBO’s historical data (table three of this report), it becomes clear that Medicaid spending, as a proportion of general funds, has remained relatively consistent since 1995 — about 15 percent — in contrast to the popular image of being a drain on state budgets.

Sigritz said that the two figures provide a different picture of state spending. “General funds gives you a sense of spending deriving from state revenue, while total funds gives you a sense of total state expenditures,” he said.  “Typically when you discuss overall state budgets you examine the various funding sources that go into them including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds.”

The Office of the Actuary for Medicare and Medicaid makes this distinction. The 2010 Actuarial Report for Medicaid notes the broad figure, but then takes pains to add: “This amount, however, includes all Federal contributions to State Medicaid spending, as well as spending from State general revenue funds and other State funds (which for Medicaid consists of provider taxes, fees, donations, assessments, and local funds).” The report concludes: “When only State general revenues are considered, however, Medicaid spending constitutes an estimated 16.2 percent of expenditures in 2009, placing it well behind education.”

Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Hatch, defended the 22-percent figure, noting its wide use. “It is part of their budgets, and there are many different streams of funding that fund those state budgets (including federal funding, taxes, etc.) that fund their many programs,” she said.

But Colleen Chapman, a spokeswoman for the Georgetown University Center for
Children and Families
, a policy and research center, said, “In the current budget debate, the data are being misused to argue that the Medicaid program in states is out of control and needs to be cut dramatically, when in fact, Medicaid is still much less of state spending than education and has not grown, as a portion of state budgets, in any way close to the mammoth way that others argue it has.”

The Pinocchio Test

We will label this with one of our rarely used categories: TRUE BUT FALSE.
(We still need to get an appropriate icon for this one — suggestions are welcome.)

Yes, the 22-percent figure is a valid number. But it is being used in an inappropriate way, and therefore is misleading. Hatch and Fletcher are only the latest in a long line of public figures — and news outlets — who have seized onto this number without apparently realizing that it is the wrong statistic to use. If people want to understand the impact the Medicaid is having on state budgets, politicians should begin to use the 15-percent figure — or at the least offer a caveat to the 22-percent number. Otherwise, there might be some Pinocchios in their future.

 

By: Glenn Kessler, The Fact Checker, The Washington Post, July 5, 2011

July 5, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Deficits, Economy, Education, GOP, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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