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Senate, House still sparring over health care decision

Published Apr. 24, 2013

TALLAHASSEE — The Senate budget committee sent two alternatives to Medicaid expansion to the full Senate Tuesday, though it's no clearer if either measure can pass the Legislature.

A proposal to accept $51 billion in federal aid to provide private insurance to 1 million Floridians passed unanimously. A second, more modest proposal to use state funding to subsidize coverage for low-income families passed along party lines.

Republicans in the Senate, who seem ready to accept federal money, say they voted for both proposals to keep their options open in hopes of working out a last-minute deal with House Republicans, who have proposed rejecting federal assistance.

"I think we need to do something in that field, so I don't want us to get to the end of the day and have no option available because of the process," said Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples. "It's easier to close down an option at the end than it is to open up a new one."

Sen. Joe Negron, the sponsor of the bill that would accept federal money (SB 1816), has floated the idea of merging his proposal and the House plan (HB 7169). That would allow eligible Floridians to at least choose between the two.

But Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said he doesn't see the House agreeing to that.

What is more likely, Thrasher said, is that the House will pass its plan and send it to the Senate. Senators could then replace the House plan with the proposal offered by Negron and force the House to take it or leave it.

The reverse could happen if a Senate plan passes first.

The full House will discuss its plan Thursday and could vote on Friday.

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