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Pinellas GOP describes no votes on Medicaid in heroic terms

To hear the Pinellas delegation tell it, the list of their accomplishments from the 2013 legislative session is long, but they'd prefer to be remembered for what they didn't do: expand Medicaid to cover a million uninsured Floridians.

At a meeting of the Pinellas GOP last night, members of the state Senate and House said they came under intense pressure, including targeted radio and TV ads, to accept the $51 billion the federal government offered the state to expand health insurance coverage. (They did, however, manage to keep their own healthcare costs down, as the Times reported today.) And in glowing terms, they described how each of them said "no," even though the governor and Republicans in the Senate were pushing for a different answer.

"The challenge of Medicaid was not easy,"said Rep. Jamie Grant, who represents District 64, which straddles north Pinellas and Hillsborough. “On one side you had a feel good story that said: ‘Don’t you believe that everybody should have access to healthcare?’ Well, yeah I do. Do you think that the taxpayers and that future generations should be burdened with it, is a very different question.

The meeting, held at the Feather South Country Club, was attended by State Sen. Jeff Brandes ‑ the lone member of the Senate to vote against a plan to expand coverage using private insurers - as well as Reps. Larry Ahern, Ed Hooper, Kathleen Peters, and Grant.

Brandes thanked his colleagues in the House for rejecting the Senate's plan. When it comes to the healthcare exchange program, "if you want it, you pay for it," he told the crowd. "We did not obligate your kids and your grandkids to pay for an expensive Medicaid expansion that they would be paying for for generations."

Ahern touted the alternative plan proposed by House Republicans, which would have rejected federal dollars in favor of using $300 million in state funding to provide basic coverage to 130,000 residents. Ahern said he was hopeful that plan that would resurface next session.

"That would have truly been the one that could be the most help to the citizens of Florida," he said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 10:02am]


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