“Shot Clock” running out on health care deal

May 1, 2013

The following article was published in The Florida Current on May 1, 2013: 

Time running out for health care deal

By James Call


Senate President Don Gaetz said Wednesday there is not enough time to find a compromise with the House to extend health care coverage to the uninsured as called for in the Affordable Care Act.

“It appears that the shot clock has run out on the health care issue,” the Niceville Republican said. “But that doesn’t mean that we are going to stop working. I know that Speaker Weatherford and I are committed to try to find some way to provide more health care coverage to uninsured Floridians.”

The Senate proposed using money available under the ACA to insure all residents earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The House proposed using state money to cover the disabled and adults with children earning up to 100 percent of the FPL. The Senate amended the House bill into the Senate proposal and sent it back Tuesday.

To protest House leaders’ refusal to schedule a vote on an amended CS/HB 7169, Democrats invoked a procedural rule requiring all bills be read in full. The move slowed down the process and with the clock ticking towards a Friday adjournment some legislators fear their bills will not be heard this year.

“We’re not holding up any bills,” House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale said of the maneuver. “We’ve had some senators come over who have not been very happy, we’ve told them the same thing, ‘We want to hear your bill, senator … we’re not holding up anything.’”

Wednesday, the Democrats added a new twist to the protest. They mentioned health care in every debate.

“I’m glad we’re using tax dollars to take care of fish, now let’s take care of people,” said Rep. Mark Danish, D-Tampa, during debate of SB 336, a measure allowing tourism tax money to go to aquariums. “Now let’s get tax money so that the people of the state of Florida can be able to get health care.”

House Republicans say the nation cannot afford to provide health care coverage to people.

“The federal government is borrowing money and is raising taxes to pay for the expansion of Medicaid and we think the $7 billion it is offering the state of Florida is unsustainable,” House Speaker Will Weatherford said.

Weatherford cited a comment from U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin and chair of the House Budget Committee to support his reference to the program being unsustainable. Ryan advocates cutting government spending to stimulate economic growth. However, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman disagrees. He argues that austerity measures cutting government spending in Ireland, Greece and Spain have prolonged an economic recession. Krugman and a growing number of economists say the data indicates spending stimulates growth regardless whether it is government or private.

“Paul Krugman is probably a little closer to Raul Castro policies than he probably is with mine, so I can’t imagine Mr. Krugman would agree with me on much of anything,” Weatherford said when asked about his unsustainability remark.

House Democrats say the problem is Weatherford dug in his heels on the issue before thinking it through and now that Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Senate support using federal money, Weatherford is trapped by his own words. Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, said the Senate is offering the House a way out.

“Their bill is a bipartisan product; it’s truly a Republican bill. Sen. Joe Negron put it up,” Jones said. “This is something that we can do and we can do it together.”

If not, the session ends Friday and lawmakers go home without passing a bill to reduce the number of uninsured Floridians.

“I plan to keep the Senate PPACA Select Committee in place,” Gaetz said. “I plan to ask Sen. Negron to continue to work with that committee and to work with the parallel committee in the House of Representatives in the interim, between sessions.”

Read the original story here:  http://www.thefloridacurrent.com/article.cfm?id=32691688