It’s very hard to find a silver lining in Florida lawmakers' inability to pass a state solution to the expansion of Medicaid. It’s not going to save the state money and millions of struggling, low-income Floridians will remain uncovered. But perhaps most strikingly, especially in a state where big business has long had its run of things, the legislature’s failure represents significant cost increases for corporations.
Republicans may be hoping that creates more backlash toward Washington, but turning away 50 billion dollars while the cost of doing business grows, will likely be seen as a much more localized failure.
Here’s the way it works. Businesses with 50 or more full-time employees will have to provide health insurance for workers who work at least 30 hours per week. If they don’t those employees must purchase insurance through an exchange, in which case the company pays a hefty fine.
Here’s why that’s so important in Florida. Agriculture and tourism are a trillion dollar economy in the Sunshine state – which is about one-fourth of all economic activity. These industries include mostly low-wage workers, many of whom would be the exact sort of people that those tens of billions of dollars would be providing expanded Medicaid coverage for. That means they’re not part of the employer sponsored/exchange-based equation.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that both industries were clamoring for the expansion. As Disney and Big Agriculture are perhaps the two most powerful interests in the state, the fact that we didn’t take the federal deal is perhaps the best demonstration of the legislature’s ideological handcuffs.
The Republican Party, which has sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act no less than 37 times in Congress, has obviously dug in on their position. Lawmakers who hope to climb the ladder from Tallahassee seem more interested in protecting future campaigns than protecting vulnerable workers or even powerful businesses.
However, they might be well-served to remember that it will still be Floridians they’ll need to elect them to any higher office and building a great, big coalition of the screwed might not be the best way to do it.