Medicaid expansion is an issue in the race for Florida’s Senate District 22, a swing district that covers most of Pinellas County and extends to South Tampa.
"This is an issue that propelled me into the race because I am running against the only senator that voted against the Medicaid expansion,” Democrat Judithanne McLauchlan said.
McLauchlan is running against Jeff Brandes, who was the lone vote against state Sen. Joe Negron’s alternative to Medicaid expansion during the 2013 legislative session. The plan, which would have drawn down $51 billion in federal funding over 10 years, was ultimately defeated by the Republican-controlled House.
During Tuesday’s legislative forum organized by the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative, McLauchlan held up a glossy mailer that tells voters she is a “bad prescription."
"This is what I get for my support for health care expansion. It's me in a white lab coat and blue gloves, looking like I'm about to give a rectal exam,” she said.
The Republican Party of Florida has spent more than a half-million dollars on attack ads, according to McLauchlan, who wants the state to take federal money to expand health insurance for low-income people under the Affordable Care Act.
“I think it is imperative that we come up with a compromise plan to accept those $51 billion of our tax money that should be coming back to Florida to serve those who need access to healthcare,” said McLauchlan, a political science professor at USF St. Petersburg. “There’s nearly a million Floridians who are in this position of not being poor enough for Medicaid and not being able to get the subsidies on the Marketplace.”
Meanwhile, Brandes remains firm on his opposition to Medicaid expansion, and said his main concern with the plan is at the federal level.
“You have a federal government that’s struggling to pay its bills and is taking on more and more debt every year,” Brandes said. “I believe that what they propose is not a sustainable plan, that they're going to ultimately come back to the states and ask the states to contribute more and more money.”
Brandes ran unopposed when he was elected to the seat in 2012 after spending two years as a representative in the Florida House. His committee assignments include Health Policy, Agriculture and Education; he is the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.
In his bid for re-election, he has been endorsed by the Florida Medical Association PAC.