Universities, nonprofits accepting federal grants tied to health care reform

By | 03.27.12 | 12:54 pm

Even though Florida lawmakers have rejected millions of dollars in federal health care grants in the past two years, non-governmental organizations all over the state have been accepting the funds.

Florida Today is reporting that already “Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature have turned down or refused to apply for $142 million in grants” because they are allocated through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The state of Florida is the lead plaintiff in the current legal challenge to the 2010 health care reform law, which is currently being debated in the U.S. Supreme Court. Because lawmakers have positioned themselves against the law, they have been rejecting millions of dollars in grants from the law that would improve public health throughout the state.

However, groups that are not opposed to the grants for political reasons — such as nonprofits, universities and health organizations — are accepting money tied to the law, Florida Today reports.

According to Florida Today:

Nonprofits, universities and health organizations have been more than willing to take in tens of millions to upgrade services and expand health education. The National Conference of State Legislatures recently placed the total at $116 million, although that does not factor in some grants Florida later rejected.

The nonprofit Brevard Health Alliance hopes to get $30 million from the federal government for expansions.

A $2.6 million federal grant could help create a “health supercenter.” Despite opposition to the Affordable Care Act by the governor and the Legislature, the Health Alliance sought federal funding to renovate a 30,000-square-foot commercial space at Sarno and Croton roads into a health complex.

“It’s what needs to happen in our county,” said Lisa Gurri, the chief executive officer of the alliance, said last fall. Nearly 18 percent of the employed people in Melbourne are uninsured, according to the alliance.

Nonprofits are eager for the funds, while the state often declines, said John Hilston, associate professor of economics at Brevard Community College.

Critics of the state have denounced Republican lawmakers for rejecting the health grants because most would have gone to low-income and vulnerable populations in the state. One of the rejected grants, for example, would have gone to fight child abuse.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told me last week that it is “unfortunate” that the state has turned down the grants because “it’s the most underserved Floridians that are the victims of that choice.”

Although the state has continued to turn down most of the federal grants allocated through the reform law, the state did accept funds for abstinence-only education programs.

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