After months of procrastination, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis revealed a health care plan for Florida on Wednesday, less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 election, highlighting access to health care coverage even for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing employees to take their health plans with them from job to job.
DeSantis, who repeatedly voted against the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) while in Congress, has been pressured by Democrats and the media to explain what his stance is on one of the most crucial issues that voters care about in this midterm election.
Not even a day later, DeSantis’s plan has already sparked criticism and confusion about who will be helped and how much it will cost. On his campaign website, details are scarce.
But here are the talking points on the website:
Protect Access for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions
Expand the Reach of Our Providers
Support Our Seniors
Maintain Our Social Safety Net
Respect Taxpayers’ Money
Help Floridians Struggling with Opioid Addiction
Within the plan, DeSantis says he will ensure people have the “right to buy” the best health plans for them and their families, the “right to know” what those plans will cost, the “right to shop” for cheaper plans, and the “right to quality” insurance.
Karen Woodall – executive director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy in Tallahassee – said she is skeptical of the effectiveness of DeSantis’s plans for Florida.
“There’s not really any new ideas in here and there’s not really any mention how any of these things already in place are going to be paid for,” Woodall, 60, said.
Woodall said that the biggest health care challenge Floridians face is being able to afford quality health care. DeSantis says he will protect Floridians’ access to quality care, but Woodall said she is unsure of what that really means.
“You can say people have access – I have access to buying a Lexus, but that doesn’t mean I can afford it. Health care has to be about quality care and access for everyone,” she said. “It’s not about the right to buy it (health care coverage) or the right to access it. It’s about the ability to afford it, and health care costs are still unaffordable for lots of people.”
During a conference call Thursday, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, representing Hillsborough County, said she was surprised DeSantis had released a health care plan at all and called the former Congressman’s voting record on the issue in Washington “troubling.”
As a member of Congress, U.S. Rep. DeSantis voted multiple times to remove health care protections guaranteed in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and was part of the outspoken group who opted to shut down Congress to block the implementation of the ACA in 2013.
DeSantis’s website says “he will continue to support Florida’s groundbreaking Medicaid managed-care model, which has helped to curb the growth of that entitlement program. He will also aggressively combat fraud in Medicaid and other health and human services programs.”
Castor said she is unconvinced.
“I have to tell you, looking at it, his webpage simply does not address the concerns that Floridians have regarding their coverage and its cost and Medicaid expansion,” Castor said. “The DeSantis plan is just kind of doubling down on what we’ve seen in Washington under the Trump administration and it’s going to raise costs.”
She said the plan was “not smart, fiscally-speaking,” citing millions of dollars in taxpayer money Floridians send to Washington that is then left on the table because of the state’s rigid grasp on health care.
“I think this is a defining issue in this election,” Castor said.
Multiple reports show that health care is one of the top issues in this year’s election, including a top issue for young voters as well.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum came out early during the election season to support a Medicare-for-all plan that may prove much more difficult to accomplish from the governor’s seat. But the rhetoric has inspired a strong surge of support from Floridians desperate for help getting access to health care.
Gillum has also said he believes all Floridians have a right to health care coverage, regardless of income, and supports guaranteeing protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“Florida never received the opportunity to benefit from the full impact of the Affordable Care Act to due to Gov. Scott’s refusal to extend Medicaid to over one million Floridians,” Gillum’s website reads. “As governor, (Gillum) will work to expand Medicaid and strengthen the Affordable Care Act.”