I agree with the Bradenton Herald editorial when it said "All segments of this community should be represented at the table during the search for a solution -- everyone with an open mind." This was sadly missing when the indigent sales tax referendum was formulated and proposed.
For that and other sound reasons, I opposed it.
If we are to work together, certain facts must be acknowledged. The indigent sales tax referendum was at best premature and probably unneeded. As noted several times by the Bradenton Herald, it is unlikely that Florida can afford to pass up greatly expanding Medicaid.
There are basically two groups who are uninsured: the working poor and the indigent.
Those tracking the Florida Legislature predict that the Medicaid proposal known as the Negrone plan will probably be the basis for greatly expanding Medicaid in Florida by up to 1.3 million new recipients -- the indigent population.
For the first three years, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of expansion. For the following seven years, Florida will only have to pay 10 percent.
It is difficult to imagine that Florida is going to pass up $51 billion in federal health care funding. Nor will the Legislature allow Florida businesses to be taxed over $300 million to $350 million a year in penalties because it has not expanded Medicaid.
That is why it is widely expected that some form of the Negrone plan will be instituted. At that point, close to 25 percent of Floridians will be covered by Medicaid.
Additionally, the working poor will -- repeat will -- have access to a variety of health care insurance plans through the federal exchange.
The working poor's' purchase of these health care insurance policies will be subsidized by the federal government, making it affordable.
There is simply no reason why any Manatee County taxpayers' dollars should cover the health care costs of the working poor when they will have access to multiple affordable and subsidized health care insurance plans.
With the working poor covered by Obamacare, which will happen, and with the passage of the expansion of Medicaid, which will likely happen, 90 percent or more of "our" uninsured health care problem will be solved. Like it or not, health care in the United States has been federalized.
Simply, the problem will be largely alleviated by Obamacare. We ought to see how successful it is in the next year. Especially before we begin to tax ourselves to fund a solution in search of a problem.
The Manatee County administrator states that he has no solution to a "$9 million dollar gap" in the budget. This "gap" is supposed to be produced when the Manatee health care trust fund runs out in 2015. Apparently his only solution was the indigent sales tax, which was soundly and justifiably defeated.
As noted above, there will probably be no gap as Obamacare will take care of the problem. But even if Medicaid is not expanded, the working poor will have access to subsidized insurance, which will greatly reduce the problem.
But in the worst-case scenario, with new construction and rising property tax values, if the real estate property tax revenue in Manatee County rises a mere 6 percent in the next year and half, there will be no crisis, no gap, and health care can continue to be fully funded.
Looking ahead to working with the county government on health care problems, we agree that everyone should be at the table, and starting now.
But the ostensible health care plan -- all seven pages of it -- suggested an "advisory committee" with four of the six groups at the table being those who receive the money -- health care providers.
We need an advisory committee that will seek and demand hard answers on health care. We need to audit several of our health care providers to make sure that they are spending our tax dollars in an appropriate manner, including reasonable salaries for those at the top of these "non-profit" organizations.
I and others who opposed the indigent sales tax are willing and happy to work with the Manatee County government and our health care community. It is time to work on real solutions to real problems.