The remarkable part about Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s recent announcement that his state would sign up for the Medicaid expansion proposed in the health care reform law was not that Scott, a virulent opponent of the law, agreed to the change, but his reasons for making it.
The statement got me thinking about those who do, and those who don’t.
Yes, Scott is a politician facing re-election with his popularity is in the mid-30 percent range, a level that would mean a sure defeat. And yes, he realized that his efforts last November to make sure that millions of Floridians could not vote did backfire.
And yes, again, all politicians take policy actions that are entirely self-serving.
Still, as regards the Medicaid change, what Scott said was important because it put on the record by a Republican the key and sole important reason to reform the health care system in this county.
Scott acknowledged that the current delivery health care delivery system leaves millions of Americans uninsured and visiting doctors’ offices and emergency rooms from which the cost is passed on through the system to all other users: Insurance companies, hospital, other consumers and taxpayers.
The statement is important for two key reasons: It recognizes that the cost of treating uninsured patients is already baked into the system, and it brought to light what advocates have been saying all along – that health care costs are a main reason that the poor remain poor because too much of their income is used to pay for health care, or worse, they don’t seek treatment at all.
All Scott needed to do was examine the ALICE report written by the United Way of Northern New Jersey, which detailed in hard numbers the impact of health care costs on the working poor, among other elements. It is a key reason the working poor have such a hard time trying to stop being the working poor. It hard to save for a new car when an illness takes all your savings.
Scott’s decision also means that those with the most dire circumstances – the disabled, mentally ill, the poorest senior citizens – will be able to be treated and supported.
So it was the right move on Scott’s part.
But let’s not give Scott a free pass. He was the chief executive officer of a health care company that paid the largest-ever fine for Medicare fraud. And yet he was elected governor of Florida. What that says about Florida would take years to unravel.
Contrast that move with the vote by the Warren County freeholders, who recently decided that all spending projects that are greater than $400,000 should be placed on a ballot for a voter referendum. Stop me before I spend again.
First, gentlemen, you were elected to make those decisions. That’s what a representative democracy does, elects people to positions to make such decisions.
The Warren freeholders have as a body declared they will not do the job they were elected to do. Putting all such spending questions a ballot will do nothing but slow down the processes of government, which will add costs to each delayed project.
Because like it or not, gentlemen, just because you don’t want to spend money on something does not mean the problem goes away. The cost simply pops up elsewhere. Your actions are merely the avoidance of responsibility, not the expression of it.
Morris County voters should keep this junior high school exercise in government in mind as its freeholder board pledges to pass a budget with no tax increase.
That will only work if all their costs also agree to stay flat, which of course they won’t.
Under state law, the county budget of about $315 million can rise no more than 2 percent, generally speaking, or roughly $6.3 million. An average homeowner in Morris pays roughly $1,000 in county taxes. This is the number the freeholder board wants to attack. Voters need to ask, if cuts are coming, where will they land?
The young leader of this anti-tax cabal proudly said in the past he was elected to cut taxes. Actually, he was elected to govern, and while that could at times include cutting taxes, the two acts should not be confused.
What the above actions reflect, as does the idiotic budget fight in Washington, is the lack of an understanding of consequences.
Doing nothing, even doing nothing loudly supported by well-reasoned rhetoric, is not action.
It is doing nothing.
So let’s look at those who do.
United Way, like Morris Habitat for Humanities, NewBridge Services, Family Promise of Morris County, Family Service of Morris County, and other nonprofits, reinvented themselves in changing circumstances.
Each of these organizations in the past decade faced changing needs and changing finances as the corporate world was altered and government support was reduced.
So they changed, survived and are leading the fight against the things that diminish our society: Homelessness, poverty, untreated mental illness, loneliness, joblessness. Working separately and together these groups and others have said to the needy and desperate that there is someone who cares, there is away way out, a way back; said, importantly, you are not alone.
They did not point fingers or shirk duties. They acted.
In Morris County this group attends freeholder meetings to remind the elected officials of their responsibilities, not to campaign promises, but to the residents of the county who need calm, measured deliberations to address key issues. They would do well to listen.
These are the people who do, not the people who don’t.
These political naysayers who seem baffled about how to proceed should invite Maggie Doyne to address them.
Maggie is the young Mendham native who about five years ago eschewed college to open an orphanage in a poor village in Nepal.
Armed with nothing more than a good heart, strong will and a desire to make something better, Maggie in those years, opened the orphanage, a school that is now being expanded to a high school and is the center of life in that village.
But more, the school was the first ripple that created a building, then jobs, then an economy, and now hope. There is medical care, education, a link to the outside world and progress. Maggie in her work brought the 21st Century to a place stuck in the middle ages with no way out.
Such an effort belittles the puffed-up actions of elected officials who merely talk when they should be acting.
Join those who do.
It is time.