In her otherwise can’t-miss Sunday column, the Florida Times-Union‘s Tia Mitchell asks, “Do some senators face health-care conflict?”
“Five of the 36 senators who voted in favor of Medicaid expansion work in the health-care industry,” writes Mitchell” “A sixth is married to a hospital executive. And that has caused some people to cry foul, especially critics of the Senate’s fervent push to accept federal money to reduce the number of uninsured Floridians. They believe the senators not only should have disclosed a conflict-of-interest but question the motives of some senators who have pushed for Medicaid expansion.”
But wait, haven’t we read this all before?
Yes, several times.
POLITICO’s Marc Caputo, who was kind enough to highlight Mitchell’s column in his Florida Playbook, first broached the subject in March:
“The battle over Medicaid expansion (the FL Senate wants it; House doesn’t) is making Senate President Andy Gardiner the target of a mailer campaign by Americans for Prosperity and of a whispering campaign by fellow Republicans who note he’s employed in the hospital industry, which would benefit by expanding Medicaid (called FHIX) and by a Senate fix to the Low Income Pool (which the feds might not fund and which the House leaves out of its proposed state budget). Gardiner’s day job: vice-president of external affairs and community relations at Orlando Health. Pay: $189,329, according to his last financial-disclosure.”
SaintPetersBlog followed this up with widely circulated blog post detailing how other state senators — not just Gardiner — was connected to Florida’s hospital industry.
“(T)here are also four Florida senators, or their spouses, whose livelihoods depend on the healthcare industry. They are key players in the Senate proposal to replace billions in federal Low Income Pool money tied to Medicaid expansion.
“The four Senate leaders are Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner, who also serves as vice president of external affairs and community relations for Orlando Health hospitals. Julie Galvano, the wife of Senate Majority Leader and future Senate President Bill Galvano, is director of business development for Blake Medical Center in Bradenton.
“Deputy Senate Majority Leader Denise Grimsley also works as administrator for Florida Hospital Wauchula, and Health Appropriations Chair Rene Garcia is (unpaid) vice president of Miami’s Mercy Hospital in Miami.”
The Associated Press’ Gary Fineout offered his own version of this story, but expanded it to include several other conflicts held by state lawmakers:
“Many legislators have places where their professional lives and legislative work overlap. The Florida Legislature is a ‘part-time’ job that pays slightly less than $30,000 and most legislators have outside jobs that allow them to spend two months a year at the state Capitol.”
Even The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis got in on the action, blogging about the Medicaid expansion debate while highlighting Fineout’s report:
“It also calls into question the supposed virtues of a part-time legislature. Florida legislators make less than $30,000 a year, so you either end up with rich people representing you — or people who have to work another job. And guess which kinds of industries love to hire politicians?”
Which brings us to Mitchell’s column, which is by now the fifth to arrive to this party. She offers some original insight by reporting about how former Senate President Don Gaetz disclosed “his potential conflict as owner of a company that provides services to the elderly and gets a small portion of its funding through Medicaid.”
But that’s all that’s really new in this column, and that angle isn’t really that new.
Mitchell holds herself as a first-tier capital bureau reporter, but this column is not at that level.