Florida Democrats say Florida needs to expand Medicaid. Republicans want to try other ideas.

Health care
CD Davidson-Hiers photo

Democrats, Republicans and Gov. Ron DeSantis agree that Floridians need better health care.

But they differ radically on the solution.

“We have a great financial and human crisis looming,” House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Miami-Dade County Republican, told lawmakers on the opening day of the 2019 Legislature. “I am speaking, of course, of the health care industrial complex, a terribly dysfunctional health care system that is bankrupting the state and many of the individuals living in this state.”

Oliva outlined a series of reforms he claims would bring more competition and would offer Floridians more health care choices and lower costs. He wants to change the way the state licenses hospitals and other medical facilities and allow nurse practitioners to provide more medical care.

In his state-of-the-state speech, DeSantis promoted his plan to lower prescription drug costs by importing drugs from Canada. He said he has President Donald Trump’s support to use a 2003 federal law to import lower-cost drugs. DeSantis claims the proposal could benefit state health care programs like Medicaid and businesses and individuals facing higher medical costs.

But DeSantis also acknowledged “it will require navigating an institutionally hostile bureaucracy.” Despite the 16-year-old law, the federal government has yet to approve a drug importation plan for any state.

Senate Democratic leader Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville said she has a straightforward plan that could help 700,000 or more Floridians receive health care coverage: Expand Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act to cover more needy families. Expanding Medicaid, she said, would address issues like widespread opioid addiction and inadequate mental health services.

“These goals could largely be accomplished by a single act: expanding Medicaid in Florida,” Gibson said. “But the governor refuses to consider it, while nearly a million people languish with no place for their health needs except the emergency rooms.”

She said Florida is one of 14 states that have refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“That’s why Democrats will continue to push for health care expansion,” Gibson said. “Standing by while thousands of Floridians are denied access to health care and (are) ignored by this administration is not an option.”


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