Political Correction

After Two Years, Florida Republicans Are Still Ignoring The Realities Of Health Care Reform

March 27, 2012 9:46 am ET - by Brian Powell

Gov. Rick Scott

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments challenging President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Almost immediately upon passage, Florida (via Attorney General Bill McCollum) spearheaded a lawsuit against the act (subsequently joined by several other states), which has now reached the nation's highest court. At the same time Florida was filing its paperwork against the ACA, the Republican leadership in Florida began its case in the court of public opinion by fear-mongering about the law with misrepresentations, omissions and hyperbolic vitriol.

Some of the most ludicrous attacks have come from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has been in full denial mode. Initially, he publicly denied that the ACA was the "law of the land," despite having been passed by Congress and signed by the president. Lately, he's chosen to deny federal aid to the people of Florida. Scott has managed to shun hundreds of millions of dollars in PPACA grants that would, among other things, bump up Medicaid payments to primary care physicians and directly benefit Floridians right now.

Other Florida Republicans have followed Scott's lead. Some examples include Sen. Marco Rubio, who claimed "Obamacare" has been "detrimental to our economy;" Longtime Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who alleged the ACA "raids half a trillion dollars from Medicare, jeopardizing seniors' access to the care they need and deserve;" Rep. Gus Bilirakis, who characterized the law as a "job-killing takeover of our healthcare system," and Tea Party darling Rep. Allen West, who has declared the law an "unconstitutional, anti-constitutional and, most certainly, an awful piece of American policy" that is "destined to fail."

Unfortunately for the GOP cause, the harsh rhetoric of the Florida Republicans doesn't match the reality on the ground in their state. Even though the ACA's full rollout is still some years down the road, many of its provisions have already had a big impact on Florida citizens. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has published some noteworthy statistics that the GOP in the sunshine state failed to mention. Here are a few:

Thanks to the new health care law, 256,600 people with Medicare in Florida received a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. In 2011, 238,362 people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on their covered brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. This discount resulted in an average savings of $596 per person, and a total savings of $141,948,339 in Florida. By 2020, the law will close the donut hole. [Healthcare.gov, accessed 3/22/12, emphasis added]

Health plans are now required to allow parents to keep their children under age 26 without job-based coverage on their family's coverage, and, thanks to this provision, 2.5 million young people have gained coverage nationwide. As of June 2011, 157,185 young adults in Florida gained insurance coverage as a result of the new health care law. [Healthcare.gov, accessed 3/22/12, emphasis added]

The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits - freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits. Already, 5,587,000 residents, including 2,170,000 women and 1,411,000 children, are free from worrying about lifetime limits on coverage. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014. [Healthcare.gov, accessed 3/22/12]

As of the end of 2011, 3,736 previously uninsured residents of Florida who were locked out of the coverage system because of a pre-existing condition are now insured through a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan that was created under the new health reform law. [Healthcare.gov, accessed 3/22/12]

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