Former Florida Governor Bob Martinez says Medicaid expansion would be costly

03/15/13 Janelle Irwin
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Former Florida Governor Bob Martinez stayed in line with Republican talking points during a luncheon at the Centre Club in the Westshore District in Tampa today. The former Democratic Tampa mayor turned Republican touched on everything from transit to healthcare in front of about 40 local business leaders.

According to Martinez, he was a Democrat for 27 years – he calls it his minority period – but for the last 30 years he has been a Republican. And like most Republicans he said he doesn’t like the federal healthcare law. That’s because Martinez claims it could cost the state more than a million dollars.

“That’s only what they can estimate because you don’t know what employers are going to do. For instance, one of the boards I sit on – we own a lot of pieces of property, a lot of retail. So, we’re going a dog and pony with one of our clients and it’s a food industry – a restaurant industry and the way they’re going to get around Obamacare is beginning July 1, all their employees will work 29 hours.”

The federal government has offered states money to expand Medicaid under the law, but so far Florida has refused.

“And that’s what the long-term debate is: do we risk taking the money now and three years from now they decide that one way they can reduce the deficit is by not giving the states the ten percent money [for] Medicaid.”

But even after Governor Rick Scott announced he supported it, the legislature rejected expansion. Still, Martinez worries about the cost of the healthcare safety net program in Florida.

“Now, Medicaid is going to be a vacuum cleaner that’s going to suck up a lot of the new money.”

There wasn’t much reaction to his statements among Centre Club members. But afterward, Dave Develder said he worries about aspects of the healthcare law including Medicaid expansion.

“I mean, since I was 14 I made my own way and I’m a lot older than that now and I just hate it whenever government comes in and gives us some security because I know that’s going to take away – if they give me one ounce of security it’s going to cost me ten pounds of freedom and I love my freedom.”

But Bill Hayward, who during a question and answer session referred to extremist Republicans as “right wing nut jobs”, lamented that Florida lawmakers should have taken the federal money to provide more healthcare access to low income people.

“That’s the stupidest thing that the legislature’s ever done. People voted for that. They voted for Obama twice because for the first time in the history of the nation we now have a system starting – it’ll be changed – but it’s starting to give people [Medicaid]. What more compassionate thing can the government do? And they’re not doing it, we’re paying for it with our taxes and so forth, but at least they’ve administered [Medicaid] somewhat well.”

Governor Martinez was also asked about transportation improvements. He praised Hillsborough Area Regional Transit for its efforts to improve the county’s bus system, but said expanded options like light rail only work in dense regions.

“If in fact you want people to leave their cars at home, you got to make it difficult to park.”

That, he said, is not happening in Tampa.

“You know, every building that goes up downtown – not in Westshore, but downtown – Westshore as well, but downtown they charge you – is that you’ve got to put up so many parking spaces. But when you do that you’re accommodating for more cars.”

Martinez also speculated about the rest of this year’s legislative session in Tallahassee, saying it will be contentious, but there won’t be arguments over new taxes because the state is projecting a budget surplus.

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