Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Reverse New Deal In Florida: Using lies and misinformation to deny adequate health care to low-income Americans

(New Deal policymakers thought that adequate health care was important for all Americans - even the non-wealthy. WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

The Florida House of Representatives--dominated by  Republicans--recently voted to  reject federal money to expand health insurance coverage for hundreds of thousands of their low-income residents. One of the Republican legislators, Doug Broxson, said: "It's something we cannot afford, not only in Florida but in the rest of the nation, if we have government controlled health care...I’m very concerned that we could spend all our gross national product on health care, and it would take away from every other program we have in the state."

Broxon's statement is so utterly outrageous that I hardly know where to start picking it apart. He is concerned that the United States will spend too much on government controlled health care, yet time after time after time it has been shown that countries with some type of universal health coverage (which can only be achieved with some type of government intervention) pay less--far less--than the United States (see, e.g., "Here's a Map of the Countries That Provide Universal Health Care (America's Still Not on It)," The Atlantic, June 28, 2012). And, under the Affordable Care Act specifically, the rate of health care spending in America has slowed down, although analysts differ as to whether the ACA has played a significant role in that slowdown (see, e.g., "U.S. Experiences Unprecedented Slowdown In Health Care Spending," Huffington Post, December 3, 2014).

Broxon also worried that the expansion of health care to low-income residents "would take away from every other program we have in the state." One of the programs he is probably concerned about is the Florida legislature's own government-run, taxpayer subsidized health insurance: "One of the chief arguments Florida House Republicans made Friday when they rejected the Senate plan to help 600,000 working poor get health insurance is that it would create a taxpayer-funded entitlement and would be hard to repeal. What they didn't mention during the debate is that they are entitled to a very generous health insurance package that costs $22,000 a year — with premiums mostly covered by Florida taxpayers" ("Florida legislators benefit from heavily subsidized health insurance," Tampa Bay Times, June 6, 2015).
This recent episode is just a continuation of a long history of lies, deceit, misinformation, and hypocrisy that Florida Republicans have used to endanger the lives of their state's low-income residents. For example, when the Republican Party of Florida ran a TV ad to convince Floridians that health insurance premiums were rising fast under the ACA, PolitiFact rated the statement as "Mostly False" ("Health insurance costs are skyrocketing under Obamacare, Republican Party says," PolitiFact, September 29, 2014). And Republican Governor Rick Scott, "meanwhile, has changed his mind on the issue several times. He initially opposed expanding Medicaid under the health care law, citing concerns over job growth. Then in 2013, he reversed course, citing his mother's death in professing his support for bringing federal funds to Florida to broaden health care coverage. The governor later backed off on his support, and earlier this year announced he would sue the federal government for allegedly forcing his state to expand Medicaid by withholding federal hospital funds" ("Florida House Rejects Plan To Expand Health Care For Hundreds Of Thousands," Huffington Post, June 6, 2015).

(Construction work at a state hospital in Chattahoochee, Florida, 1936, with funding assistance from the New Deal's Public Works Administration. New Deal work programs built, repaired, or improved hospital facilities all across the nation. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

New Deal policymakers had a different philosophy about low-income Americans and health care. Through the WPA, they staffed and/or operated health clinics all across the country. Through the CCC, millions of young unemployed men received medical care. Through the PWA, large hospitals were built to serve more people. And when President Franklin Roosevelt gave his Second Bill of Rights speech in 1944, he advocated for the right of every American "to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health."
Not everyone has shunned the New Deal in favor of cruelty, of course - but in the Florida House of Representatives, well, welcome to the Reverse New Deal: Using lies and misinformation to deny adequate health care to low-income Americans.

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