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Times and Trib draw the same Medicaid conclusion, but their reasons show partisan divide

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It’s not often editorial boards for the Tampa Bay Times and Tampa Tribune agree on something. Historically the Times has tended to lean more to the left while the Tribune typically favors more fiscally conservative policies and leaders.

But the two boards are in agreement over expanding the state’s Medicaid program under a revised Senate plan to draw done $51 billion of federal money to insure the state’s working poor.

As of right now, lawmakers have failed to agree on a plan to accept the funding to provide coverage to some 800,000 uninsured Floridians. The result is a budget gap as the state faces a massive reduction to federal payments for indigent care to hospitals treating those without health coverage.

Both editorials – one appearing in the Tribune on Sunday and the other in yesterday’s Tampa Bay Times – contend House Republicans should approve, or at least be willing to compromise, on a Senate plan that seems to address GOP-based concerns over accepting federal funds.

But despite the overarching agreement, the differences in the two editorials are still apparent. The Times focuses on all of the components addressed in the new plan while emphasizing the need for humane health coverage for the poor. The Tribune focuses more on protecting tax cuts that could be threatened if the federal dollars aren’t accepted.

The Times notes three areas where House members have argued expanding Medicaid is unwise. The first argument that the Times argues has been solved in the revised plan is the House contention that Florida’s Medicaid system is broken. The changed plan now requires enrollees to go directly into a private market, including the federal exchange established, instead of going into the Medicaid program for the first six months.

The next argument addressed – that the “subsidized health coverage is a handout to the jobless who aren’t looking for work” – is cleared up by adding a stipulation that enrollees must register with CareerSource Florida in order to be matched with potential employers. That new provision builds on those already included in the Senate plan such as minimum requirements for looking for work, actually working or pursuing continued education.

The final argument, and perhaps the most prominent among House Republicans, is that the federal government could eventually renege on its funding promise. The new version of the Senate plan allows the state to pull the plug on the program if that happens and prevents the state from approving anything with the federal government that varies from the state’s approach.

“There is a path now for everyone to win, from lawmakers from both political parties to Floridians who care nothing about politics and only want to be able to afford to see a doctor,” the Times’ editorial board wrote.

But flip on over to the Tribune and the reasoning is a bit different.

Even it’s headline, “A conservative plan to help the uninsured,” tells the story.

Where the Times mentions only Medicaid expansion, the Trib explains the looming loss of $1 billion in Low Income Pool dollars.

“Proposed tax cuts might have to be trimmed or abandoned,” the Tribune’s editorial points out.

The Tribune mentions “Obamacare” several times, while the Times does not.

They also draw attention to the “hidden tax on business” that occurs when healthcare costs from indigent care are “largely shifted to those who are insured.”

They also write that “House members worry, not unreasonably, that Washington won’t live up to its side of the bargain.”

The bottom line is, though the two editorials draw the same conclusion – take the money, Florida – their reasons for getting there are vastly different. Even the Tribune’s cautionary tales of Florida being stuck footing the bill for expanding health coverage to the working poor are addressed through the new federal plan.

The two editorials show what Medicaid expansion supporters can only hope House members realize, that the Senate plan has addressed how to finally increase healthcare access while minimizing the risks GOP members so frequently flaunt.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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