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Meek defends law; Crist flip-flops

By Jim Saunders
 8/30/2010 © Health News Florida

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kendrick Meek today vigorously defended the new federal health-care overhaul and blasted rival Charlie Crist for what appeared to be shifting positions on the issue.

Meek's comments indicated that the health-reform law could become a major point of debate during his Senate race this fall against the independent Crist and Republican Marco Rubio.

Responding to a reporter's question about opposition among some seniors to the law, Meek responded, "What's the alternative?'' He also said the law needs to be fully implemented during the six-year term of whichever candidate gets elected to the Senate.

Meek's comments, made during a press briefing in Tallahassee, came three days after Crist caused a stir by saying in a television interview that he would have supported the health-care overhaul --- only to issue a retraction hours later.

In the retraction, Crist said he would have voted against the law and said it was "too big, too expensive and expanded the role of government far too much.'' 

That immediately touched off attacks from Rubio and Meek, who continued criticizing Crist today.

"He is raising the bar on the flipping and the flopping on everything,'' said Meek, a Miami congressman who won a Democratic primary last week.

Meek's full-throated support for health reform comes despite a recent Quinnipiac University poll showing that 56 percent of Florida voters disapprove of the law, while only 35 percent approve.

But Meek listed a series of benefits that he sees in the law, including providing $250 rebates to help seniors afford prescription drugs and providing a high-risk pool to offer insurance to people who can't find or afford private insurance because of medical conditions.

Rubio issued a statement Friday criticizing Crist but also taking a shot at Meek, saying "we all know Kendrick Meek is a liberal who strongly supports ObamaCare.''

"I’m the only candidate in this race who has opposed ObamaCare and vowed to repeal and replace it with a real reform plan that will lower costs, allow people to keep the coverage they have now and give individuals the same tax breaks businesses get to provide health care insurance,'' Rubio said in the statement.

--Capital Bureau Chief Jim Saunders can be reached at 850-228-0963 or by e-mail at jim.saunders@healthnewsflorida.org.