By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Even after Florida lost its legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, state officials are turning down federal health care grants connected to the law.
The latest grant declined: $4.9 million aimed at helping at-risk women and babies in Florida.
Since the federal health care law was enacted, Florida has turned down money associated with the law because accepting that money would have undermined the state’s legal challenge. Many of the funds would have gone to programs that help the state prevent problems including child abuse and infant mortality.
Many legislators also said they refused to accept the federal money because they believed the health care law was unconstitutional. This was, of course, before the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutionally sound.
Well, the state’s legal challenge was settled and Florida policymakers still have not changed their minds about the grants.
Earlier this month, the Florida Department of Health turned down a $4.9 million federal grant that already has helped 84 Pinellas County families and hundreds more statewide.
The department was forced to turn down the money after the Florida Legislature refused to accept it.
Some state lawmakers were upset because the program is connected to the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
“It’s unconscionable, unconscionable that we should return this money to Washington . . . and allow it to go to other states,” said state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston.
The federal government was poised to give the $4.9 million to programs around the state that provide in-home visits to parents in areas with high rates of premature babies, poverty, crime, substance abuse, joblessness, child abuse and other issues.
The Times reported that state Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, said those programs “can lead people to rely on government assistance as a matter of course.”
“There comes a time when we have to stop being so dependent on the federal government,” she told the Times.
Grimesly has made similar comments about grants that would have gone to Healthy Start. A year ago, she said a federal health grant for maternal and infant care was an example of the government taking a role meant for churches and might cause us to “lose our compassion.”
In March, Gov. Rick Scott’s office estimated that he and the GOP-led Florida Legislature had “turned down or refused to apply for $142 million in grants attached to the [health care reform] law.”
In that time, Florida did accept money from the law for abstinence-only education.