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Guest opinion: Medicaid expansion

June 7, 2013
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

On May 3, 2013, the Florida Legislature completed its work for the 2013 Session and we adjourned sine die. I owe tremendous thanks to my fellow Legislators in the House and Senate for the good work we were able to accomplish together, and I am incredibly grateful to my constituents for this opportunity to serve. It was a great first session.

As I have traveled the district in the last month, one topic remains top of mind for many: Medicaid expansion.

Currently, Florida spends approximately $9.1 billion on Medicaid, which is 20.2 percent of the state budget. Even with a promise of federal funding to cover the expenses for the first three years, expanding Medicaid will cost Florida taxpayers at least $3.5 billion over the next 10 years. That cost will skyrocket if the federal government reneges on its promise to fund the expansion. Washington has a track record of poor fiscal management. During our fragile economic recovery, that is not a risk Florida can take.

Spending in Washington is out of control, and 40 cents of every federal dollar is borrowed money. I cannot in good conscience burden both current and future taxpayers by supporting a plan that further fosters our national debt in an already recessed economy. I will not support a plan that couples short-term benefits with substantial long-term risk. I was sent to Tallahassee to do what is right, not what is easy. Please consider the following:

The proposed federal funding is not Florida tax dollars. Florida is not a "donor state." For fiscal year 2010, IRS collections from Florida totaled $111 billion while Florida received $187 billion in direct federal funding, a majority of which is health care related. Our current tax dollars are spent. Further spending would be the spending of future generations' tax dollars.

When a state declines to expand Medicaid coverage no other state will receive its share of funds, and federal spending declines.

Medicaid expansion and funds associated with Medicaid expansion are expected to add nearly a trillion dollars in new costs to a federal ledger that is already plagued with trillion-dollar deficits. This type of spending is simply unsustainable.

Aid to state and local governments are likely to be among the first targets in federal spending cuts. President Obama has already proposed shifting more of Medicaid costs onto states in his fiscal year 2013 budget.

Here in Florida we are constitutionally obligated to balance our budget, and therefore when the federal government eventually shifts these funding obligations to the state we will have to raise taxes - YOUR taxes - by billions.

During the 2013 Regular Session, the Florida House of Representatives proposed an innovative alternative based on several principles:

Rejecting the "all or nothing" approach of the federal government

Embracing a free market solution

Strengthening the safety net

Ensuring the integrity of our existing healthcare system

Protecting taxpayers by considering only solutions that are sustainable

And most importantly, the plan is independent of funding from the federal government.

As we continue the dialogue, I assure you I will advocate strongly for a fiscally responsible and meaningful solution that helps the truly needy. As always, I welcome your questions, comments and input.

- Dane Eagle is the State Representative for District 77, which includes Cape Coral



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