Editorial Roundup: Florida

South Florida Sun Sentinel. June 8, 2024.

Editorial: Cold-hearted Florida, tossing kids off KidCare

To appreciate just how little the state of Florida cares for its children, look no further than the state’s arguments for kicking more kids off KidCare, a low-cost health insurance program.

The count was already at 22,500 when a federal judge last month dismissed Florida’s suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Florida’s goal: The right to toss kids off insurance rolls if a parent misses a premium payment, despite being warned that doing so might break federal rules.

All states have some version of KidCare. The federal- and state-subsidized program offers insurance for children whose parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid.

How it works

Florida KidCare can require parents to pay premiums, typically no more than $15 or $20 a month. That generates $30 million a year for state coffers.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, concluded that even if a premium goes unpaid, a child must remain insured until eligibility can be re-determined, usually annually.

Florida balked.

Without the threat of losing their kids’ insurance, the state argued, parents could just make one premium payment at the beginning of the policy year, and get free health care for the next 11 months.

Thousands will do just that, the state predicted, costing as much $48.5 million under an expanded KidCare plan.

Sue first, ask later

Florida sued. But it sued poorly. The judge found the state jumped the gun. It sued in federal court before taking up the issue with CMS.

And although the ruling did not mention money, Florida also sued before it had lost even a penny under the new rule. It was speculating about future financial harm.

In court filings, the $48.5 million reads like a plucked-from-the air figure based less on math and more on the presumption of scheming parents exploiting a loophole.

Even if accurate, the cost represents little more than lint in the state’s pocketbook: It works out to 3.3% of this year’s $14.6 billion budget surplus, in a $117 billion budget.

Indeed, the same state now squawking over a speculative future $48.5 million cost involving uninsured children also set aside $450 million this year — nearly 10 times as much — to offset the very real current cost of E-Pass toll relief for drivers.

But the state’s argument is not just about the money. It’s about building character.

KidCare, state lawyers solemnly argued, “is a personal responsibility program” for parents.

It’s a Florida thing

In other words, Florida argued not only that parents needing health insurance for their kids are lying in wait to rob the state of $15 a month, but they are also in dire need of lessons in personal integrity, which our state claims it provides — by taking away children’s health insurance.

Never mind if the family car needs a new tire or the kids need school supplies. Never mind if a child’s premium money is required to pay for a child’s prescription.

Nowhere in decades of federal laws, amendments and rulemaking for this insurance program are requirements that parents be threatened and their children’s health jeopardized as a necessary part of its success.

It’s a Florida thing.

And it’s not just KidCare. Last year, when states began unwinding a Medicaid eligibility policy adopted in the middle of the pandemic, Florida said it successfully reached out to 93% of families at risk of losing coverage.

Even so, the number of children disenrolled from Medicaid and KidCare combined was pushing 600,000 last December, when U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra wrote to Florida, “deeply alarmed” by the numbers.

Worse, between April 2023 and March of this year, the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University found more than six of every 10 Florida children had been dropped because of “procedural” issues, not because they had been ruled ineligible.

Becerra had offered federal help. Florida just said no.

The state still retains an opportunity to shed children from KidCare if parents miss payments. It can press the same argument it lost in federal court with CMS. If it loses there, it can plead its case before an appeals court.

If Florida wins, Florida children will lose. How irresponsible is that?


Tampa Bay Times. June 11, 2024.

Editorial: Florida farmworkers survived crash. Let them continue seeing their doctors

Legal immigration status should remain as they recover from deadly collision near Ocala.

The migrant workers who survived a deadly bus crash outside Ocala last month face a long road to recovery. The crash killed eight farmworkers and injured dozens; some are still recuperating from broken bones and head injuries. The last thing they need is to be left in limbo about their legal status and medical care. Migrants legally brought here to work should be allowed to remain as they receive needed treatment for on-the-job injuries.

Authorities arrested 41-year-old Bryan Howard on eight counts of DUI manslaughter after the Florida Highway Patrol said he crashed his 2001 Ford pickup into a bus carrying farmworkers on May 14, causing it to strike a tree and flip over. Howard also faces 11 counts of DUI with serious bodily injury. Court records show he has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges.

Howard’s fate in the criminal justice system is one thing. But the lives and livelihoods of the crash survivors is another. Five workers told the Tampa Bay Times they’ve desperately wanted to stay in Florida to continue medical treatment for their injuries but feared deportation. Some survivors also complain they’ve been left in the dark by their employer and the federal government.

Crash survivors undergoing rehabilitation should not be uprooted from their continuum of care. Let’s remember: These laborers were legally brought into the country specifically to work under a federal program known as H-2A. They were passengers on a bus traveling to harvest watermelons at a Dunnellon farm when the collision occurred. They did not cause the crash and were not acting outside the bounds of their immigration status. They suffered on-the-job injuries by any definition, and the government and industry that helped bring them here have responsibilities.

Farmworkers are commonly injured on the job; agricultural work remains one of the most dangerous professions in the U.S., according to federaldata. Yet the Ocala tragedy highlights the gaps in worker protections under the H-2A program. The program’s rules don’t address whether laborers should be afforded extended time in the U.S. for treatment of work-related injuries, or whether employers should provide housing during that time, as the Times reported this week. That’s why the workers, whose visas expire this month, were scrambling to learn whether they could legally remain to continue receiving care for their injuries.

These migrant workers were trying to operate under the law and within the system, not outside it. Yet the workers were left confused and fearful about their legal status as they scrambled unsuccessfully for straight information. The U.S. Department of Labor, which oversees worker safety for the H-2A program, declined to comment to the Times.

These workers are contributing to the U.S. economy under government sanction, carrying out exhausting, dangerous jobs that Americans won’t perform themselves. No worker in this program should have to suffer the anxiety of worrying about whether a job-related injury would put their legal status at risk. Sending injured workers back home prematurely could mean a life of suffering to those who need immediate care. It’s also immoral. And it’s another reminder of how our society treats migrant laborers as disposable.


Orlando Sentinel. June 6, 2024.

Editorial: Do red-light cameras save lives? Florida wants to find out

Traffic cameras — those silent but implacable witnesses to driving infractions that can result in hefty fines for red-light running or speeding in a school zone — have never been all that popular with Florida residents. To many, they seem unfair: Because law enforcement is rarely present when the camera records a violation, there’s no human interaction. By the time the ticket arrives in the mail, the memory of having broken the law has faded, even though motorists usually have the ability to go online and see video of their misdeeds. And particularly in the early days of camera-monitored tickets, there were questions about tricks employed by the private vendors with contracts to run the cameras on behalf of local governments.

A bill recently signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (HB 1363) could help give peace of mind to local residents with doubts over the cameras’ effectiveness and fairness. It establishes new rules for cities and counties that operate cameras — including an open, public discussion under the state’s Sunshine laws any time new cameras are added. It obligates local officials to report annually to the state with detailed data on how many motorists are ticketed and how effective cameras are in reducing traffic crashes. It also requires details on the number of drivers who fight red-light tickets and win. That could provide critical insight on whether the cameras are unfairly targeting drivers who aren’t behind the wheel when a vehicle they own is seen pushing through a red light.

The new data probably won’t shake the hardcore opponents of the cameras. Some state leaders have tried multiple times to abolish the authority of cities and counties to use red-light cameras. This year, that included a proposed constitutional amendment that failed to pass in this year’s session.

Killing that proposal was the right decision. Banning the cameras could strip local governments of tools that could save lives. Red-light violations are among the most common — and most hazardous — of driving errors, and cause thousands of traffic deaths each year. Putting a camera at an intersection tends to remind drivers that there’s a price to be paid for ignoring traffic signals, and if they violate the law at a camera-monitored intersection, they will get a ticket. The same goes for drivers when cameras catch them speeding in a school zone or ignoring safety signals mounted on school buses.

But Floridians also deserve to know that the cameras — which can produce millions of dollars in revenue after vendors take their cut — are being operated with an eye toward accuracy and accountability. For its part, the state needs better data on whether the cameras do enough to improve public safety. Thus far, that data is mixed, though cameras have been in use for more than a quarter-century in some U.S. municipalities. But one landmark study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2015 found that installing traffic cameras at busy intersections in big cities correlated to a 25% reduction in traffic fatalities.

Use of cameras should still be a local decision — one an increasing number of cities and counties are turning away from, though they remain popular locally. According to WESH News 2, Orange County and six of its cities — Orlando, Belle Isle, Maitland, Winter Park, Ocoee and Edgewood — have 25% of the 476 cameras across the state.

HB 1363 does include some silly distractions — including a ban on vendors based in China or other “foreign countr(ies) of concern.” But the bigger impact of the legislation is this: Floridians deserve to know how red-light cameras impact public safety, and this would give them the data they need.