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Drum roll please: House GOP plan on health care to be unveiled

Are Florida House Republicans ready to unveil their long-awaited alternative to Medicaid expansion?

Could be judging from the approval this week, through House Speaker Will Weatherford’s office, to block out four hours on Monday for the House Select Committee on the Affordable Care Act. The meeting hasn’t been posted yet, but House leaders are authorizing that the committee, which is chaired by Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, meet from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday.

The committee rejected Medicaid expansion on March 4 -- the day before legislative session began -- and has met sparingly since. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have proposed two alternative plans (one that uses federal dollars, one that doesn’t) and Gov. Rick Scott has continued to get national attention for supporting the expansion of Medicaid, something Weatherford and other top House Republicans oppose.

Weatherford lost support last week from Democrats for the House’s $74.4 billion budget because of the lack of a plan addressing Medicaid. For weeks, he has said that a House plan was going to be released, but hasn’t provided any details about it. Last week he said only that a plan was coming soon.

Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said he has heard about a proposed House plan that would include no federal dollars and about $300 million in state dollars. It would pay for a system that would expand coverage, but would also include higher deductibles, incentives for staying healthy and limit patient spending through “savings accounts.”

Fasano said he doesn’t support what he’s heard of the plan because it doesn’t include federal dollars and doesn't do enough to help the "little guy and gal."

“I hope they come to their senses,” he said.

It’s not clear if the plan Fasano said he heard will be discussed at the Monday meeting.

Democrats are meeting tonight to discuss their stance on the House budget, which will be voted on the chamber floor Friday. House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said he will tell members to vote against the budget because of the absence of a plan to address the Affordable Health Care Act.

Last week, several Democrats expressed regret that they couldn’t support the budget during an appropriations committee meeting, especially because it contained things that they support, such as across-the-board pay raises for state workers and teachers. Thurston said he's confident that discipline will hold for all 44 Democrats.

“I’m confident our caucus will do the right thing because we’re strong on this issue,” Thurston said. “It’s an important issue. Not only for those who it will benefit from the expanded medical coverage, and the draw down on the feds, but also for those currently paying for those services in the highest form possible in terms of emergency room services.”

But Thurston said he will be looking to hear more about Monday’s possible meeting on health care.

“We’ve seen that there has been a meeting added,” Thurston said. “I’d want to see a draft of what will be discussed at that meeting. At that time we’ll be able to make a comment on that. If there were something to be offered we would be encouraged by it.”

Just in time for Friday’s vote on the budget, too.