(Tom Toles/The Washington Post)
“Exceeded my expectations!” yelped Paul Ryan, at the news that the Congressional Budget Office had scored the Republican Obamacare Plan a disaster.
The review forecast that the GOP plan would result in 24 million people losing their insurance. If you compare that number to the number who got insurance under Obamacare, it’s pretty close to all of them! How could the GOP improve on that?
Repeal and replace! Everybody wondered what that would mean, once the scalpels actually started slicing. The ever-reliable Donald Trump told us it would mean health-care coverage for everyone! Great coverage, at great prices! If you believed that, I have a Trump University degree to sell you. But, in the event, as so often happens with Trump statements, what he promised bore no relation to what was possible, or desirable. But, too late, smart Trump voters! You are on the operating table now, and the scalpels are glinting in the overhead work lights. And when the slicing is done, you will discover that in “repeal and replace,” “replace” is just more “repeal.”
So okay, millions will lose their coverage. What they will gain is some excellent word descriptors, the best. Ryan has called the GOP plan “freedom.” He has also called it “an act of mercy.” Yes, of course. That’s also what they call it when they put your dog down. But that’s not all! It also means tax cuts! And you know what that means. When the Republicans say tax cuts, that means tax cuts for the rich. The rich most definitely think of this as “freedom” and “an act of mercy.” Feel their former pain as you feel your current pain.
Politically, the GOP was in a bind. They’d been promising the impossible, and promising and promising it. They had to choose between their promises and the possible. They chose ideology, and now they are not sure which will be worse, the damage resulting from passing their bill or not passing it. The rubber is now meeting the road, and the road turns out to be up the front and down the back of many of their voters.
Will their voters notice this? The Republicans have grown accustomed to their voters not noticing anything. The current hope is telling them that Obama is still secretly president, and from his cave in the deep state he stole their health coverage and gave it to the terrorists.
Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott declared a statewide public health emergency to combat the pill-mill crisis that was killing seven people a day.
Six years later, Florida faces an even deadlier killer. This time it's heroin, which is killing 10 people a day.
As he did with Zika last summer, we urge the governor to recognize the heroin epidemic for what it is — a public health emergency in urgent need of greater funding, increased awareness and wider distribution of naloxone, a drug used to treat overdoses.
"There is no family, no race, no ethnicity, no income level this epidemic cannot touch — and no effective state bulwark in place to stop it," Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens wrote in a letter to the governor.
Indeed, Marion County Commissioner Kathy Bryant — this year's president of the Florida Association of Counties — lost her brother, Daniel, to an overdose last July. She's not the only county commissioner who's lost someone to heroin, either. The association made addressing the opioid epidemic one of its top five priorities this year.
"People don't think it's people like you and me, and that's just not the case," says Bryant, of Ocala. "It's everywhere. It's one of those drugs that's extremely hard to get away from once you start it."
The association is seeking more money for mental health care and substance abuse, knowing addicts don't generally have insurance for treatment and families can afford only so much. They also want to ensure ambulances are stocked with naloxone, noting some South Florida fire departments can't afford it. And they seek tougher penalties for people who sell heroin, a good goal, though it's hard to believe tougher penalties will stop sales. Sure, longer sentences could keep dealers off the streets longer, but the painful truth is that addicts will find another supplier.
In other states that have declared public health emergencies, like Virginia, anyone can now obtain naloxone at pharmacies without a prescription, which lets families and friends be prepared to help people in the throes of an overdose. And Massachusetts released $20 million two years ago to get more addicts into treatment.
Sadly, the rise in heroin abuse is associated with the closure of the pain-pill clinics. Plus, heroin is increasingly compounded with fentanyl, a synthetic drug that can be lethal at low doses. Bad batches and uncertainty about potency are part of what's causing so many deaths.
Between 2013 and 2014, the Florida Medical Examiners Commission says deaths from heroin increased 124 percent. The next year, heroin deaths rose 80 percent. The trend shows no sign of ebbing.
Beyond the human toll, the costs are staggering.
The Palm Beach Post investigated the crisis and reports some stunning numbers:
• In the first nine months of 2015, Florida hospitals charged $1.1 billion for heroin-related visits, with many of those bills going unpaid.
• From 2010 to 2015, Florida hospitals charged $5.7 billion for heroin-related visits, including $2.1 billion to the state Medicaid program.
• In those same five years, hospitals charged $967 million for babies born addicted to heroin. Medicaid was the primary payer in almost all of those cases — $826 million.
Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said in a statement that the administration is listening. Surgeon General Celeste Philip and Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll are scheduled to meet with legislators "to hear their input on the subject." In Florida, the surgeon general is the person who formally calls a public health emergency.
State health officials should listen hard and make the obvious call. For not only is the heroin epidemic killing people, it's destroying families and leaving children without parents.
Schenone noted that Scott's proposed budget includes $4 million for the Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council, of which $2 million will "be provided for financial assistance to local law enforcement to conduct investigations related to heroin abuse."
That's not nearly enough money. It's expensive to treat addiction, wage public education campaigns and stock ambulances with emergency drugs.
These last few months, the governor has been waging the fight of his political life to secure $85 million in economic incentives to lure businesses to Florida.
Let us see equal tenacity in fighting for Florida families facing the consequences of addiction.
Let us see Attorney General Pam Bondi show the same muscle she used in fighting pill mills to fight the heroin epidemic.
Let the governor call the heroin epidemic what it is: a public health emergency.
And let Daniel's family — his sister and brothers, his three children, his parents, everyone — be the last to face the despair of this epidemic on their own.
Copyright © 2017, Sun Sentinel
Florida Senate Democratic Office
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon
Response to State of the State – as Delivered
March 7, 2017
· Good afternoon. I’m Oscar Braynon, and I’m the leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
· On behalf of the Senate Democratic members, I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes about Governor Scott’s State of the State address today.
· Not just about what he said, but about what he didn’t, about the promises he’s broken, and why that matters.
· For the past seven years, Governor Scott has talked a lot about the economy. “It’s all about jobs,” he says.
· Well, he’s right. We couldn’t agree more. Everyone needs work; everyone needs a job.
· The problem is the kind of jobs he’s been bringing home to Florida.
· Because the majority of his jobs are great for teenagers, or someone just starting out, but not for someone with skills, with training, with a strong work history, or a family to support.
· They’re not the kind of jobs that let you save for that new car, that down payment on a new house, or your kid’s future education.
· They’re not the kind of jobs that invest in the people.
· And it’s that commitment to investing in the people that’s been missing from too many areas in the seven years since Governor Scott first took office.
· In states like Michigan, Arizona, and even Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, the governors didn’t stand in the way of the people getting affordable health care.
· They realized that bankrupting residents because of a medical emergency isn’t the way to prosperity.
· They realized that the national health care law not only brought more medical coverage for people, but more good paying jobs in the health care field.
· They knew that you can’t work if you’re sick, you can’t give 100 percent if your body is operating at half power, and you can’t take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself.
· Time and time again, Governor Scott had the chance to do the right thing, to invest in the people by expanding healthcare coverage in Florida.
· But he didn’t. He gave the public’s money away in big tax breaks to big companies instead.
· It was a fool’s errand.
· From conservative think tanks to top economists, there’s widespread agreement that the way to lure the top companies with the top paying jobs isn’t just dangling tax dollars in front of them.
· Florida is and has been one of the lowest tax states for business in the country.
· Business executives want what the rest of us do, and it all comes down to quality of life: good schools and top-notch universities, quality, affordable healthcare, efficient transportation, and clean water and air.
· They want more than just a state that sells itself as “cheap.”
· So as Governor Scott continues his sales pitch for more of your dollars for more of his corporate tax cuts, ask him about that big shortfall the state is facing because of these very same policies, and his broken promises to turn Florida around.
· Ask him about the green sludge fouling Florida’s waters because money was never committed for prevention.
· Ask him why we’re stuck near the bottom in high school graduation rates and educating our pre-school kids.
· Ask him why 9,000 more people with developmental disabilities age 21 or older are waitlisted for services, or why we’re at the bottom of the national pack in our commitment to services for the mentally ill, or access to basic health care.
· And ask him why investments in the people just aren’t as important as the people’s money for his tax incentives.
· If you had the chance, what would you choose?
· More jobs paying minimum wage, or jobs you could brag about, jobs you were proud of, jobs that were taking you somewhere?
· If you had the chance, would you check the box for fewer doctors, less medical services, and higher costs?
· Or would you check the box for a family doctor, preventative services, and treatment you can afford?
· As Democrats, we believe in the right choices, the ones that deliver the good jobs we need, and the affordable healthcare we’re missing.
· We believe in a future that aims higher, that wraps the hopes and dreams of every man and every woman struggling to hold on, into one unified march for better opportunities now – not some faraway date in the future.
· And we believe that the way that you do this is by investing in the people.
· Start with education, the great equalizer, and start young. Commit the money our public schools desperately need to shore up crumbling buildings, pay better salaries to our teachers entrusted with educating our children, and provide the tools students need to succeed and stand second to none.
· Embrace health care coverage for all Floridians, and the financial sense it makes not just in eliminating expensive back-end treatments, but a boon in new high paying jobs.
· And rethink opportunity and second chances by eliminating criminal records for minor drug and non-violent offenses so that job offers don’t vanish with the application form.
· All of this was missing from Governor Scott’s State of the State speech today. It’s been missing for the past seven years.
· For all his campaigning as an “outsider” his politics have been focused on the well-being of the insiders, his promised tax cuts mostly tailored for the well-off while the tax bills went to everyone else.
· In his first campaign for president, former President Obama said: “Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work. That’s the promise of America.”
· That’s the promise of Florida, too. And that’s the promise Democrats intend to keep.
· Thank you.
Florida Senate Democratic Office
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399