Full court press for health law supporters despite gloomy outlook

At this point, it's kind of like shouting at a big rock...if said rock had the power to save a million or so people who face the perils of being uninsured.

Still, backers of a plan that would pave the way for the state to accept $51 billion in federal dollars are pressing on in trying to convince Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli that it's a pretty good idea to let poor people go to the doctor once in a while rather than treating them when their health issues come to a head in the emergency room. (By the way, just a cursory glance at Crisafulli's bio suggests he's probably never had to worry about health insurance, or anything else, really.)

In Tallhassee today, Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson was in town pushing for the proposal, which the Senate appears to be in the midst of passing despite attacks from the likes of the Koch Brothers. Also in town was U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee.

Wasserman-Schultz commended State Senate Democrats for their efforts and even had nice things to say about their Republican counterparts.

Less famous advocates for the policy from chambers of commerce and health care workers' groups have also been storming the capitol in an attempt to convince law makers that expanding health care coverage is the right thing to do.

In cities across the state, groups that support it are coming together to echo that.

On Tuesday at a firm in the Carillon area of St. Pete, a group of health workers, economic development advocates and city officials called for the State House to c'mon and expand friggin' Medicaid already.

"When uninsured people go to the hospital, somebody has to pay for that," said St. Pete City Councilman Karl Nurse, who owns Bay Tech Label (the firm where the event was held), who said on Saturday he cut a $20,000 to cover the monthly health care premium for his 40 employees. "And that's paid for by the [businesses] who are paying [for] health insurance. So it's a transfer of cost. And it's health care that's provided in the most expensive way."

Complicating the issue is the fact that $1 billion federal low income-pool (LIP) money that in previous years has reimbursed hospitals for treating the poor and uninsured is going away this year.

"Time is of the essence," said Julie Kessel, president of the League of Women Voters' St. Petersburg chapter. "Billions are at stake for Florida businesses, workers and taxpayers...If nothing happens, businesses and individuals will face significant penalties, jobs will be lost, hospitals will lose federal monies for uncompensated care, the state will face a budget shortfall and tough decisions will have to be made by many."

Anne McMullen, executive vice president of business development at Doyle Wealth Management, spoke on behalf of the St. Pete Chamber of Commerce on why it's important to St. Pete's 9,400 businesses.

"The money will deliver $541,000,000 to local government revenue and generate over 120,000 jobs across the state, many of those here in the Tampa Bay area," she said. "Healthy employees make a strong work force and are critical to this community."

Alas, it appears as though all those press conferences and hours spent lobbying in Tallahassee may have been in vain. 

After all, members of the House are very, very busy mostly-men.

Today, some of them are passing resolutions calling on Congress to issue sanctions against Iran for some reason. Another committee was discussing a 24-hour waiting period requirement for women seeking abortions.

So, you know. They're way too busy talking about important things to put health care on their agenda.

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