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As GOP focuses on new health care issues, Florida Democrats say Medicaid expansion still a priority


Florida's 2013 legislative session practically started and ended with Medicaid expansion at the center of debate, with House Republicans blocking a plan to use federal dollars to reduce the number of uninsured Floridians.

This year, House Republicans pledge to tackle issues that have long lingered on the back burner, such as providing more independence for highly trained nurses, increasing the number of medical students who go into primary care and regulating virtual doctor visits.

But even as the focus shifts from Medicaid expansion, Democrats say it remains a top priority.

"I don't think they'll have it in their agenda, but it's on our agenda," said House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. "So we will be talking about it. And if they want to pretend it's a big elephant in the room that's not really there, then it's up to them."

Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, disagrees. He crafted the plan that House Republicans rejected to use $51 billion in federal funding to purchase private insurance for poor Floridians. The House and the Senate had the same goals but after "spirited, full and fair debate" were unable to reach an agreement, Negron said.

"I don't know how productive it would be to simply film the same movie over again," he said. " … I think the fact there are so many other health care issues is an indication that the Legislature has moved on to other issues where we can make progress."

Read more here.