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Will state lawmakers go for new proposal to extend healthcare coverage?

Published Dec. 4, 2014

A coalition of business interests and private citizens, including some prominent Republicans, unveiled a plan on Wednesday to accept federal dollars to extend publicly funded healthcare coverage to nearly a million Floridians — without calling it "Medicaid expansion," as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act.

The plan, called A Healthy Florida Works, offers an alternative to the ACA model while proposing a politically viable path for Florida's Republican-controlled House of Representatives, an obstinate opponent of the health law, to extend coverage to more residents.

Proponents have presented the plan as a "free market" solution that promotes "personal accountability" among beneficiaries by requiring them to pay monthly premiums and to search for employment or enroll in job training programs.

"Trying Medicaid expansion as envisioned in the Affordable Care Act hasn't worked in Tallahassee," said Linda Quick, a coalition member and president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. "So this proposal is a Florida solution."

It was unclear Wednesday how the proposal would be received by Republicans in the state legislature.

State Rep. Richard Corcoran, who in 2013 proposed an alternative to Medicaid expansion that did not use federal dollars, said he would be willing to consider the coalition's plan.

"It sounds like they are headed in the right direction," said Corcoran, a Land O' Lakes Republican who was recently tapped to lead the House Budget Committee.

The proposal also had the support of powerful Senate Rules Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs — a close ally of Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. The upper chamber has been supportive of expanding Medicaid.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has also said he supports expanding healthcare coverage to poor Floridians.

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