A Republican lawmaker today called on members of the Florida Legislature to accept $51 billion in federal money to extend healthcare coverage to nearly 1 million uninsured and provide the state with a huge economic stimulus.
Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah spoke at a news conference along with Rep. Amanda Murphy (D-New Port Richey), local business owners, members of the medical community and the President of the League of Women Voters of Florida to advocate for expanding the state-federal healthcare program for the poor.
Garcia said it doesn't make sense that the state of Florida accepts federal funding for things like transportation and education, but refuses to take federal dollars for healthcare expansion. "This is not about politics -- its about policy and being consistent and taking care of our own," Garcia said.
Garcia is sponsoring a bill (SB 710) that would allow Florida to accept $51 billion in federal funding available for expanding healthcare coverage, and mirrors a bill that received unanimous support in the Senate last year. Murphy is sponsoring the House version (HB 869).
The bipartisan initiative would "positively impact working families and those that have fallen on hard times by ensuring access to affordable healthcare through the free market," Murphy said.
She called on House Speaker Weatherford and others opposing the measure to "come to the table" so that "together, we can find a way to set aside our differences and benefit Florida's working families."
Florida has the second-highest rate of uninsured citizens in the nation, with 1 in 4 Floridians living without basic healthcare coverage.
Speakers at the news conference emphasized the economic imperative of expanding healthcare coverage, highlighting the $51 billion and the estimated 121,000 new jobs that the expansion is predicted to create in Florida. Additionally, extending healthcare coverage will help Florida businesses avoid the massive financial penalties they face if they are unable to provide coverage to their employees, an estimated $169-253 million a year.