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Ron DeSantis’ policies have led to high health care costs, thousands of jobs lost

A look at the economic consequences of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ policies as he prepares to launch his presidential campaign.

By Emily Singer - May 23, 2023
Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a fundraising picnic for Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, May 13, 2023, in Sioux Center, Iowa. DeSantis will announce his 2024 presidential campaign in a Twitter Spaces event with Elon Musk on Wednesday, May 24. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to officially enter the 2024 presidential contest on Wednesday with the hope that voters will get behind his “Make America Florida” message.

However, experts say that DeSantis’ right-wing policies and culture war battles have hampered Florida’s economy, losing the state jobs and leading to higher health care costs for its residents, which might make his message a tough sell for a general electorate.

“He is preaching to the choir, which is the Republican primary vote. … Recent history would indicate that it is not, however, a winning general election strategy nationally,” Mac Stipanovich, a former Republican political operative from Florida, told Axios.

Among the consequences of DeSantis’ actions was the Walt Disney Company nixing plans for the construction of a $1 billion Florida campus that would have brought more than 2,000 high-paying jobs to the state.

Disney’s decision came after DeSantis punished the company for speaking out against his administration’s anti-LGBTQ “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools and prohibits transgender school employees from talking about their pronouns with students. After Disney spoke out against the law, DeSantis took away the company’s special tax status that allowed it to govern the miles of property it owns in Orlando containing theme parks, hotels, shopping centers, and resorts.

The New York Times reported that DeSantis’ actions were a factor in Disney’s decision to cancel the campus project.

DeSantis signed S.B. 1718, an anti-immigrant law that criminalizes providing support, including transportation and shelter, to undocumented immigrants; requires hospitals to collect immigration status information about patients; and requires businesses with 25 or more employees to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to determine whether people are authorized to work in the United States. The law will take effect on July 1.

“This legislation will likely have a detrimental effect on the economy here in [Florida], because it will make freedom of contract and freedom to labor harder to actually exercise — and this may have negative effects on consumer prices and on inflation consequently,” Jill Maskivker, professor of political science at Rollins College, told Construction Drive, a publication that covers the construction industry.

“We know that the core economic engines of South Florida: agriculture, construction, hospital, and tourism are being staffed by immigrant workers. It’s immigrant workers who allow South Florida’s economy to be made possible,” We Count! Co-Executive Director Oscar Londoño told television station WPLG in Broward County.

DeSantis’ policies have forced Floridians to pay higher health insurance premiums and homeowners insurance premiums.

Florida workers pay the 14th-highest insurance premiums in the country, according to a 2022 study by the Commonwealth Fund, a research and policy organization that advocates for better health care access.

The study said that if the state expanded Medicaid, it could help lower the amounts workers have to pay.

Florida is one of just 10 states that have refused to accept funding under the Affordable Care Act to expand eligibility for Medicaid, the government health care program that covers low-income Americans.

In 2021, provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act would have provided financial incentives to states that accepted expanded Medicaid funding according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But DeSantis refused.

DeSantis’ refusal to expand Medicaid coverage to people who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level impacts 726,000 low-income residents, who would be eligible for the program if they lived in a state that accepted the ACA’s Medicaid funding, according to the KFF.

KFF said that Florida has the fourth-highest uninsured rate in the country, with 12.1% of the total population uninsured.

Florida also faces a homeowner insurance crisis, with premiums doubling or tripling over last year’s due to both hurricane risks and fraud and litigation, according to a report from the Pensacola News Journal.

law signed by DeSantis in December 2022 would require some residents who get their insurance from Citizens Property Insurance Corp., a state-backed nonprofit insurance company, to buy insurance on the private market, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. According to the report, the law is intended to incentivize more private insurance companies to offer coverage in the state.

Democratic state lawmakers say the law will hurt homeowners.

“Floridians are losing yet again,” state House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell told the Tallahassee Democrat. “I worry for our neighbors on fixed incomes. How many people are going to lose their homes before this ‘trickle down’ plan offers any relief? I’m worried about Florida’s retirees. This bill wasn’t written to help them.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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