Senior group opposes healthcare cuts

Mar 5, 2012

Florida’s senior citizens are protesting in the capital. A group of senior activists say they’re worried about the way the state’s budget is shaping up. Regan McCarthy reports seniors say their biggest concerns are decreasing funding for senior programs and the position the state’s budget leaders are taking on accepting money from the Federal Affordable Care Act.

Richard Polangin is the governmental Affairs Director for the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans,  or FLARA. He says tax reform is his group’s biggest priority this year, but so far he says he’s seen nothing to signal the state is moving in that direction.

This session we see another example of robbing Peter to pay Paul the reimbursement for nursing homes and hospitals has been reduced to make up for shortages in our schools. And both our schools and healthcare system need to be adequately funded. We shouldn’t be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Polangin says a number of bills that might have made the tax changes his group wants to see didn’t get much traction.

“The legislature has turned its back on health reform and making Florida’s revenue system adequate to meet our core functions of government, and those would be education, public safety and healthcare.

And FLARA president, Tony Fransetta, says he’s frustrated by the government’s refusal to accept and work with federal government programs that would benefit seniors.

“When we are using the funding and the people’s money in Florida to fight the affordable care act and Pam Bondi is front and center on that. How dare she and the governor use our money against women and against the affordable care act and against jobs in Florida that the rail system would have provided?

Eva Dominguez, from the group’s national headquarters says the Federal Affordable Care Act could really help the state’s oldest citizens.

“The Affordable Care Act is truly a benefit to seniors. Not only does it extend the life of Medicare by seven years, but it provides life saving coverage to millions of beneficiaries.”

So far, Budget leaders have not accepted dollars for Medicaid from the healthcare act, saying the state is involved in a suit against the law right now. Fransetta blames the state’s party politics.

“Right now what we see is extreme partisan politics being financed with our tax dollars, instead of using our tax dollars to further the benefits of the affordable care act, working jointly with the federal government and I feel there is a miscarriage of justice between Tallahassee, our governor, our attorney general and the wishes and best interest of the people in the state of Florida.”

Democratic Representative Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach is working with FLARA. He says he’s frustrated by the state’s decisions, saying the need for senior assistance is only growing.

“In 2008 there were waitlists for people trying to get community based options so they could get care in their homes. And yet that list has grown from the time I was elected from about 40-thousand to over 81-thousand people now. These are low income seniors who want help brushing their teeth or going to the market to feed themselves.”

Pafford says with budget negotiations ongoing there is time to make some changes, but maybe not enough time to fix what he sees as some of the bigger problems facing Floridians.