Last Wednesday, the Florida Senate passed its updated program to provide health insurance options for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Floridians. The revised FHIX (Florida Health Insurance Exchange) included changes designed to address some of the concerns expressed by members of the House and to reduce the long- and short-term financial impact of expanded coverage on the state budget.
Last Friday, the House said “No, thank you” to the Senate. Well, actually they left the “thank you” out of it.
I think that every reasonably astute observer of Tallahassee politics anticipated this outcome. Though the House leadership made a point of assuring Floridians that each House member would be free to vote his or her conscience on this bill, that the fix (pun intended) wasn’t in, there always was more to the story than this.
Enforced or implied party discipline isn’t necessary when one has the votes. The House leadership could afford to let individual members vote as their consciences dictate, or as their future electoral prospects might suggest, because they knew that enough Republicans would vote against FHIX to kill it without invoking party discipline.
Be assured that, if their vote counts suggested otherwise, party discipline would have been enforced.
This isn’t a criticism of the House leadership. Speaker Crisafulli and his team have made much too much of their opposition to expanding Medicaid (or anything that resembles expanding Medicaid) to be neutral on the final outcome in the House. If FHIX had passed the House, that defeat of the leadership would have undermined their credibility tremendously.
So, of course, it didn’t pass.
And, of course, Senate President Gardiner and his team knew that it would not pass.
This was all for show.
The Senate was able to take a stand for expanding insurance coverage as the best way of addressing the costs of caring for the uninsured poor. Senators had their opportunity to talk about private sector solutions to a large and growing public problem.
And, in fairness, this time around, their proposal was considered by the House.
Now we move on to what must be done. A budget must be passed, and tax cuts must be a part of it (otherwise, everyone loses credibility). The biggest single chunk appears likely to be the cut in cell phone and television service taxes. It will be touted in terms of the millions upon millions of tax dollars it will return to ordinary Floridians, touching the vast majority (even the poor among us often have cell phones).
We’ll all feel great relief each month as we pay our cell phone bills . . . which will be 80 or 90 cents less a month on average because of the tax cut.
But as I said last Monday, we have to have a tax cut. And we will.
That fix is in.