Three questions for the candidates running for governor: Health care

Health care
CD Davidson-Hiers photo

Today on the Florida Phoenix, we continue our election series, where we ask three questions of the candidates for Florida governor, who face off in the Aug. 28 primary. Each day we’ll cover a different topic of interest to voters. Today we ask about health care.

The Republican candidates — Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis — chose not to participate in the “Three Questions” series. The five Democrats running for governor responded, and we present their answers in alphabetical order.

  1. How do you plan to address health insurance coverage for people in Florida who are still not covered?

Andrew Gillum:

I believe that health care is a fundamental right – not a privilege. As governor, I’ll expand Medicaid and make accessible health care for 1 million working-age Floridians. I believe we must push further than expanding Medicaid and defending the Affordable Care Act – that’s why I’m proud to be the first candidate in this race to support Sen. Sanders’ Medicare for All bill.

Gwen Graham:

With Donald Trump in the White House, we need to fight to protect health care. My health care plan will expand coverage and decrease costs:

  • Expand Medicaid: Demand the legislature expand Medicaid for almost 1 million Floridians, or else I will veto their pet projects and take the issue to the ballot as a constitutional amendment in 2020.
  • Assume the Federal Role in Affordable Care Act Outreach: Strengthen the ACA by protecting Floridians who depend on the law from Donald Trump’s cuts.
  • Provide a Public Options to Florida Families: Floridians should be able to buy into the same health insurance that Tallahassee politicians get.
  • Reduce Cost Increase through Reinsurance Programs: The use of reinsurance pools to mitigate the impact of high-risk individuals and limit premium increases is working in other states and I will bring the program to Florida.
  • Ensure Better Health Outcomes for Seniors: Far too many seniors, especially those who are homebound, are waiting for numerous services – we will work to end the waiting lists.

Jeff Greene:

We have 700,000 people (who would) get health insurance the day we accept the Medicaid expansion. That’s pretty easy to do.

Chris King:

I believe Medicaid expansion is critical for Florida, and I have made it the cornerstone of my Florida’s Promise health care policy. Medicaid expansion would provide immediate coverage for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Floridians. Studies have shown that when parents have coverage, their children have coverage, so we can promote access to care for children simply by expanding Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid also will provide mental health services to the thousands of Floridians who need it but cannot get it.

Expanding Medicaid and adopting Florida’s Promise would also improve our state’s budget and economy. It will save Florida $5 million by reducing state costs for uncompensated care, capturing budget savings and increasing state revenues. It would create 71,000 jobs and increase economic activity in the state by $8.9 billion. It can lower costs for people shopping in the Florida Marketplaces, as states that have expanded Medicaid have 7 percent lower Marketplace premiums than states that have not.

We must end the pointless partisan pettiness that has stopped us from expanding Medicaid. We can expand Medicaid in a bipartisan way that works for Florida, and I’m willing to work across the aisle to fulfill Florida’s Promise to its citizens, but our policies must help more than they hurt.

Expanding Medicaid, however, is not enough. My comprehensive Florida’s Promise plan ensures that we are providing affordable health care coverage for all Floridians.

We must lower costs for Floridians who buy health insurance on their own. In a third of Florida counties there is only one insurance company in the Marketplace, and in another third, there are only two. Floridians in these counties pay more because they don’t benefit from competition between insurance companies.

To increase competition and lower prices for Floridians, I will encourage more insurance companies to enter the Marketplace through “Universal Participation.” As such, dozens of insurance companies that have Medicaid and Medicare offerings will be encouraged – through both carrots and sticks – to participate in the Florida Marketplaces.

Achieving Universal Participation could cause Floridians in the highest cost counties to pay close to 40 percent less for insurance. This would cost Florida taxpayers nothing while providing a public-private path to increasing access to affordable health coverage. It also makes sure that private health insurers no longer take advantage of Floridians who have nowhere else to go.

Finally, I have innovative ideas to help Floridians of all walks of life. We must bring lower cost options to rural Floridians and our military families by expanding access to health care providers through telemedicine and rational improvements to our state licensing laws. We must increase access to low cost prescriptions by creating drug donation programs that collect drugs that go unused, ensure (they’re) safe to use and provide them to patients in need. We must prevent the Trump administration from sabotaging Florida’s Marketplace by allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to consumers with preexisting conditions by selling healthy people “short-term plans.” We must help our children by simplifying access to Florida Kidcare.

Philip Levine:

I think it’s time to start treating access to affordable, quality health care as a right for all Floridians. Expanding Medicaid in Florida is not a question of if – it’s a question of when.

My administration will compel the legislature to expand Medicaid in Florida – when thousands of people are dying on wait lists and millions can’t access the health care they need, we must take action immediately and deliver results. And if they refuse to act and do the right thing, the people will govern – we will (put) the full weight of the governor’s office behind a constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid and take care of Floridians.

On both a fiscal and moral level, this is the right thing to do. By expanding Medicaid, we can also work to cut down on waiting lists that have led thousands of Floridians to suffer in limbo, not knowing whether or not they’ll get the care they need. Doing the right thing is also the wisest action to take – just by itself, Medicaid expansion is estimated to save the state of Florida approximately $500 million annually.

Additionally, my administration will put a priority on investing into community health centers and increasing funding for the two programs with wait lists – APD’s (Agency for Persons with Disabilities) Developmentally Disabled Waiver Program and AHCA’s (Agency for Heath Care Administration) Managed Long Term Care Waiver Program.

  1. What are your plans for controlling healthcare coverage costs incurred by small businesses?

Andrew Gillum:

The Republicans have tried to destroy health care coverage for Floridians – and as governor, I plan to fight back against these attacks. Destroying the exchanges, weakening the insurance market and making health care more difficult to get for people and small businesses is counter to who we are as a people. I’ll convene small business leaders to discuss access and affordability in my first year as governor.

Gwen Graham:

I believe my plan will address costs for individuals and small businesses.

Jeff Greene:

There’s a lot of things we could do – we could use our state buying power to go in and buy a ton of health insurance at a much cheaper rate.

Chris King:

The policies I described above will result in significantly lower healthcare costs across the board for Floridians and Florida businesses.

Philip Levine:

Florida should prioritize advanced, cutting-edge programs to find cost savings and efficiency measures that can expand health care delivery and coverage.

There are proven measures states can use to control health care costs. Florida should prioritize advanced, cutting-edge programs to find cost savings and efficiency measures that can expand health care delivery and coverage.

Here is how to accomplish this: The state can work in concert with insurance companies to pool their buying power and negotiate much lower prices, for examples, in pharmaceutical costs.

This has worked very effectively in Maryland to cut costs throughout the state and therefore premium costs for small employers.

  1. Gwen Graham is the only one to introduce a public option for health care. Based on what you know about that proposal, do you support that?

Andrew Gillum:

I’m proud to be the only candidate to introduce a comprehensive series of health care proposals to defend Floridians’ care – protecting coverage for those with preexisting conditions, ensuring continued access to no-cost contraception for women, and requiring that women won’t pay more than men for coverage. A public option doesn’t go far enough to ensure coverage for everyone – it’s just another plan for people to buy out of pocket, and falls short of our moral imperative to make health care a right, which is why I support Medicare for All.

Gwen Graham:

Yes, I do!

Jeff Greene:

(Did not provide an answer.)

Chris King:

I believe that my health care proposal is both more comprehensive and realistic. They cite vetoed legislation in Nevada as a potential model, but an inherent flaw in that proposal was that there was neither a price tag associated with Medicaid buy-in, nor a means of paying for it. These types of proposals rely heavily on the assumption that the Trump administration will act in good faith to provide financial support and subsidies to defer costs. I simply do not believe they will ultimately hold up their end of the bargain as they are currently working to undermine preexisting subsidies to sabotage the Obamacare insurance marketplace.

Philip Levine:

A state-level public option is an expensive solution to a non-existent problem.

The public option concept most people are familiar with is a federal proposal. At the federal level, a public option makes sense and I support it. A federally funded public option would make (sure) the U.S. government, with its unrivaled credit and a gigantic risk-pool, can re-insure a public option at a low cost. That makes sense.

A state-level public option for Florida would be very expensive. Florida does not have the tax base or the credit that the federal government does – and the state would be on the hook if medical costs spiked, forcing us to cut education and other services. More important, a state-level public option tries to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

The purpose of the public option is to provide insurance options when consumers cannot find suitable plans in the ACA marketplaces. Florida has the highest enrollment and the largest percentage of people enrolled in an Obamacare market plan anywhere in the U.S. Obamacare has worked in Florida and we should improve it, not undercut it.

We do have a big problem with high cost pharmaceuticals and other healthcare services. The expense of helping people who need coverage ties our hands from helping more citizens.

We should move to an all-payer system, similar to that used in Maryland. All-payer is a tried and true way to reduce costs, especially the costs of drugs. An all-payer program pools the buying power of the state and all the insurance providers in the state to set payments to drug companies and for-profit hospitals. The savings are then available of expanded coverage. An all-payer plan would do more than a public option to provide people with good health insurance.



  1. Insurance companies add no value to the delivery of healthcare. Although a federal universal single-payer system is ultimately the best solution, Senator Sanders’ plan has shortcomings. It’s really too bad that partisanship precludes our Congress from working together to get the job done.

    On the state level, the options are limited, but it’s telling that Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis failed to participate in the conversation.


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