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Pleas Resume for State to Take $51B

From one end of Florida to the other, calls for Florida House leaders to accept $51 billion in Affordable Care Act funds to expand Medicaid to cover the state's low-income uninsured were renewed on Wednesday. Even Gov. Scott started flirting with Obamacare again. But the man who said no to the money before -- House Speaker Will Weatherford -- is still saying no.

Here's a quick look at the action:

  • Jacksonville University's Public Policy Institute convened a health insurance forum for state and business leaders. Hospital and Blue Cross executives made impassioned pleas for the state's Republican legislative leaders to accept the $51 billion over 10 years that the federal government has offered Florida to cover the lowest-income uninsured adults. But as the Florida Times-Union reported, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, reiterated his reasons for saying no, which include an aversion to the source of the funds (Medicaid) and a lack of trust in the federal government.  Senate President Don Gaetz also mentioned an aversion to Medicaid.
  • House Health Budget Chief Matt Hudson, R-Naples, reiterated his opposition to taking the money -- for reasons that sounded the same as those of the Speaker --at a town hall presentation by the Tampa Bay Health Care Collaborative. As the Tampa Tribune reports, the other three panelists all called for Florida to take the money and use it to cover the uninsured. They included a physician, Dr. Mona Mangat; Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg; and Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, who recently retired from the Florida House. He was the only House Republican to vote in favor of an idea passed in the Senate that would take the federal funds and use them to expand Florida's successful Healthy Kids program to include adults. It didn't survive the House vote.
  • Gov. Rick Scott, who has confounded politics junkies more than once by his changing views on the Affordable Care Act, told theAssociated Press that it is time for Republicans to consider accepting the law and offer solutions that help the uninsured. He said he is willing to have a "conversation" with federal officials about setting up a state-run health-insurance exchange. Before running for Florida governor, Scott founded and funded a group that opposed passage of the Affordable Care Act, and he based his campaign largely on that theme. So it was a surprise earlier this year when Scott called for the Florida Legislature to accept federal funds to cover the uninsured. Critics say it failed because he didn't lobby for the measure, unlike Republican governors in some other states. It is not clear what his stance will be in the 2014 session, which begins in March.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.