On Wednesday, responding to strong criticism, Florida’s Legislative Budget Commission approved Gov. Rick Scott’s request to accept millions of dollars it initially rejected from the Affordable Care Act to fund a home visitation program to help curb child abuse. The state has also kept more than “$13 million for a four-year abstinence education grant and for another program coordinating background checks for long-term care workers.”
But it is still turning a lot of money down, the Associated Press is reporting, declining to pursue more than $106 million in federal grant money and returning another $4.5 million “for programs linked to federal health care initiatives.” Republicans claim that they are rejecting funds to implement provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which the state is challenging in court, but critics are accusing lawmakers of cherry-picking programs that further their ideological goals. For instance, while accepting abstinence funding, the the state turned down:
— $875,000 over five years for a program that aids in cancer prevention and increases access to quality care for cancer patients
— $8.3 million allowing Osceola County Health Department to expand community health centers
— $500,000 to counsel patients on long term care options
— $2.1 million federal grant that would have fully paid for administrative costs to pave the way for an additional $35.7 million in Medicaid funding to pay for nursing home diversions of disabled and elderly patients over the next five years
— $50 million over five years for community health programs focusing on disease prevention
Florida is also refusing to accept federal funds to establish a health insurance exchange, despite having already established a similar structure in 2008 that could easily be converted to meet federal requirements. That marketplace, which had been championed by then state House Speaker Marco Rubio, is not yet operational. Meanwhile, the state has the country’s fourth-highest unemployment rate, second-highest rate of people without insurance, and a $3.7 billion budget gap this year.