From the Orlando Sentinel, by Scott Maxwell
In recent months, Florida politicians have turned away millions of federal dollars meant for Floridians in need.
There was money for the disabled.
For the elderly who can't afford medicine.
Even for dying children who need help from hospice.
In each and every case, the money was there — paid in part by Florida taxpayers.
But Florida Republicans turned it down, claiming they didn't want anything to do with "Obamacare."
How very convenient for them and their subsidized health-care plans.
When you're getting taxpayers to underwrite your $8-a-month insurance policy, the life-and-death woes of the commoners probably seem far removed.
Turning down this money didn't save you a single cent.
Other states were ready to take the money. Even other conservative leaders who opposed to the Affordable Care Act couldn't be so callous as to reject ready money for constituents in need.
So Florida continues to send more money to Washington than it gets back … with the blessing of Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Dean Cannon.
Except this story gets more interesting.
Because it turns out, Florida didn't turn down all of the money authorized by the Affordable Care Act.
While Florida Republicans turned down, gave back or refused to apply for more than $50 million in funds, they did accept $2 million …. to promote abstinence.
Talk about selective principles.
Personally, I support abstinence education as part of comprehensive teaching.
But I also support comforting dying children during their final days … and helping the elderly infirm live in their own homes in dignity.
So I asked Cannon and other politicians — such as State Rep. Mike Horner, who once claimed it wouldn't be "appropriate" to take money for the elderly poor from the Affordable Care Act — why it was OK to take money for abstinence.
Both said it was because the abstinence money didn't come from that nasty old Obamacare bill itself, but rather "a rider" to the bill.
I bet some of those dying kids wish their funds had been a "rider," as well.
Cannon and some other Republicans also have complained of bureaucratic costs — and have even gone so far as to question the need for money to provide at-home care for the elderly.
That last part is quite some claim in a state with one of the largest populations of both elderly and uninsured in America.
And, as AARP Florida's Jack McRay said, "If there was not a need, why did Florida apply for the money in the first place?"
See, this wasn't money that Barack Obama tried to shove down anyone's throat. It was money Florida officials requested and wanted — until the war on "Obamacare" became a take-no-prisoners affair.
These are scary times.
We once lived in a state and country where politicians debated issues — but would never actually deny services just to make a point.
Those days seem to have passed.
We now live in a state where wealthy politicians cavalierly reject money for the sick and needy while sucking up subsidized insurance for themselves.
This isn't about conservative vs. liberal or left vs. right.
This is about right and wrong.
And punishing the disabled, elderly — even terminally ill kids, for heaven's sake — to make political points is wrong on a level that surpasses earthly condemnation.
Non-profit and faith-based caregivers sometimes ask me if Florida leaders simply don't understand the issues.
My growing and soul-shaking concern is that they simply don't care.
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