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Florida Matters: Medicaid Expansion and the Florida Legislature

Lottie Watts

During the 2013 legislative session, Florida lawmakers were unable to agree on a plan to expand health care coverage for more low-income Floridians.  WUSF’s Carson Cooper talked to three state representatives about that issue for this week’s episode of Florida Matters, which aired Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on WUSF 89.7 FM. 

If you missed it, you can listen to the whole conversation here.

The Florida Senate and Gov. Rick Scott were willing to take billions in federal money to help uninsured Floridians get health care; the Florida House didn't want anything to do with federal money.

State Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, said she was disappointed by the decision to reject Medicaid expansion

“I believe that we have a real crisis of uninsured Floridians,” Cruz said. “The people that we’re talking about here are working families.”

State Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, said he would have supported the alternative plan from state Sen. Joe Negron, a Republican from Stuart.  Negron's approach would have provided assistance to about 1.1 million Floridians so they could buy health insurance through private plans. State Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, tried to get the House to go along with that plan, but they voted it down 74 to 35.

The Senate plan was “essentially Medicaid,” said state Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park.

Cummings sponsored a bill in the House that would have covered about 115,000 people without using any federal money. That plan was not embraced in the Senate. In that chamber, just one lawmaker voted against Negron’s alternative that drew down federal dollars to help the uninsured get health coverage.

“This is something that has to have a lot of thought and discussion, and that will continue,” Cummings said.

In the Senate, Dudley said lawmakers heard from a wide array of speakers, but that was not the case in the House.

“I still believe that the decision that was made, the vote that was cast, lacks vision,” Dudley said. “The vote in the House was purely upon ideological lines.”

In the end, the Florida Legislature didn’t do anything to expand health coverage to uninsured Floridians. And although Democrats are pushing for a special session, there’s no indication Gov. Scott will call one.

“I’d like for us to be called back for a special session,” Cruz said. “I’d like to implement some health care coverage for working families.”

Lottie Watts covers health and health policy for Health News Florida, now a part of WUSF Public Media. She also produces Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show.