Groups upset state won't take federal funds for health care
TAMPA - Jennifer Trujillo is expecting twins. Though she makes decent money, her zip code and her high-risk pregnancy qualified her for home visits by the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, which is funded by federal grants. "Just the peace of mind that comes along with that has been invaluable," Trujillo said at a press conference Thursday by healthcare advocates frustrated with the decline of federal funds. She likes the personal relationship she has with the medical professionals who care for her. The federal grant that supplied Trujillo and other expectant Floridian mothers with this care was declined in the most recent legislative session, according to Jessica Hammonds, press secretary for the Florida department of health. Rick Scott and the Florida state legislature declined grants funded by the Affordable Care Act, a federal healthcare initiative encouraged by President Barack Obama that aims to reform private insurance, extend care to more Americans and reduce costs.Florida declined the funds because state leaders argue the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that most people have health insurance, is unconstitutional. "How can the federal government mandate me to purchase something I do not want?" said Sharon Calvert, a cofounder of Tampa Tea Party, said in a phone interview. "Our founding fathers would never have envisioned that the government could force you to do something that you don't want to do." But Brenda Ruehl, executive director for Self Reliance, Inc., said that in tough economic times, there is less money available to fund these groups, yet more people who need the service. "Given all the budget cuts, every agency is trying to do more with less," said Ruehl, whose group helps people live on their own, whether they have a physical, mental or social disability. "This money is like free money from the federal government to take care of people the state can't afford," said Patrick Cannon, advocacy director for Florida CHAIN, a group that works to extend affordable healthcare to Floridians.