Sunday, May 20, 2018
Politics

Showdown looms in Legislature over health care plans

TALLAHASSEE — They gathered in the speaker's office Monday to pray and to read aloud the stories of poor, uninsured Floridians.

They wanted someone to listen, they wanted House Speaker Will Weatherford to listen, to hear who would benefit if Weatherford and others simply said yes to $51 billion in federal health care help.

They promised to do it again — the 10-or-so of them — today, tomorrow and next week if need be. "This is the 100 percent speaking, not just the tea party," said Wilson Barnes, a 72-year-old veteran and Tallahassee resident. "And I want our speaker . . . to listen to our word, to listen to the word of God, and let's look out for all 100 percent of Floridians."

They may not get the decision they want.

A Republican-controlled House committee on Monday agreed to forgo federal health care aid and instead create a state-subsidized plan that House leaders say is more sustainable but also provides health care to far less people.

The decision sets up a showdown between the Republicans in the House and Senate and Gov. Rick Scott, who each have different ideas on how to provide health care coverage to poor Floridians. With less than three weeks until the end of the legislative session, it's unclear what, if anything, will get done.

Republicans in the House on Monday praised their plan, which would provide state subsidized health insurance to about 130,000 people, as a commonsense approach that will make participants healthier and puts the state on solid financial grounds.

"Clearly this debate we're having today is occurring in many state houses around the country," said Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples. "What we're doing is not necessarily unique to the debate that we're having, but the solution that we offer is more than unique, it's visionary."

The Senate has other options on the table and, depending on how members vote later this week, they could either fall in line with House Republicans or take a different approach.

One option created by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, would rely on the billions of dollars in federal assistance and allow 1 million or more Floridians purchase health care on the private insurance market. Another plan, by Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean, is similar to the House Republicans' proposal.

Neither chamber is considering expanding Medicaid as originally contemplated by the federal health care law.

Negron's plan has bipartisan support, the backing of Scott and is embraced by hospitals and patient advocates. The question is whether the Senate is willing stand by its plan even if it means a fight with the House.

Negron said he's willing to talk with House leaders.

"There's kind of two plans that have emerged, and I want to explore if there is a way to have a hybrid of the two or some ability to have movement on both sides so we can reach compromise," Negron said. "And I just don't know. I can't predict the future."

If neither side budges, there is a chance that nothing gets done before session ends May 3.

House Democrats are hoping that the threat of a Scott veto may entice House Republicans to bend.

The governor criticized the House plan last week and reiterated his support for the Negron plan. So far, however, Scott has made business tax breaks and raises for teachers and state workers his session priorities.

He has not said if he would veto a health plan that does not accept federal dollars.

"The governor carries a big stick in negotiations," House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, said. "He can decide how far he wants to push this, and we'll get to see how serious he is about giving affordable health care. If he's willing to hold their feet to the fire, we'll get something done."

The group of activists who met with Weatherford are planning to keep a constant presence in his office. Every hour this week, they will read the story of a different Floridian that would benefit from Medicaid expansion.

The group says it represents health care workers, clergy and veterans. A separate group led by the Florida Hospital Association is also holding rallies and lobbying on behalf of Medicaid expansion or Negron's plan in the Senate.

Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, said much of their strategy will depend on which proposals seem to be garnering support this week. He also is prepared for the conversation to continue after the final day of session.

"We certainly would like a plan adopted prior to the end of session, but the debate and discussion and opportunities don't end then," Carvalho said. "There's no federal dollars that are going to flow until Jan. 1 of 2014."

Comments
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Updated: 10 hours ago
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18
Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

To: The Honorable Gov. Rick ScottDear Governor,It has come to my attention that your administration has recently made some, dare I say, innovative hires for important government positions in the months before you leave office.At the risk of sounding ...
Published: 05/14/18