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Advocates call for Medicaid expansion in Florida

6:57 PM, Mar 20, 2013   |    comments
Amy Datz stands with loaves and fish to recall the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people. Supporters of the faith-based group PICO United Florida recited the story at the state Capitol in support of expanding Medicaid in Florida to help care for less fortunate people.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The debate over expanding health coverage to a million uninsured Floridians heats up at the state Capitol.

Democrats lashed out at Republicans on Wednesday for rejecting President Obama's Medicaid plan under the Affordable Care Act. House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston joined with the faith-based group PICO United Florida to call for an expansion of Medicaid coverage.

Thurston said it would be an embarrassment for Florida to pass on $50 billion of federal Medicaid funding over the next ten years at a cost of about $3 billion for the state.

"It's a no-brainer. We don't want to do the right thing because of politics and that's insulting. It's ultimately insulting because we're losing lives. This is not high-speed rail. This is people's lives. There's just a lack of leadership. It reminds me of little children who don't want to eat their vegetables. They know it's good for them, but unless the Supreme Court says you have to do this also, then we're not going to do it."

However, Republicans in the Senate are proposing an alternative plan that hopes to provide health coverage for uninsured Floridians.

The proposal from Sen. Joe Negron aims to use the federal Medicaid cash to help people buy private health insurance. Negron's "Healthy Florida" plan would subsidize the cost of private insurance for uninsured people.

Asked about the plan on Wednesday, Thurston said he's encouraged by any effort that's designed to expand health coverage for low-income Floridians, no matter what the program is called.

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