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Weatherford's dad was right: Medicaid paid the bills

A day after voicing opposition to expanding Medicaid in his inaugural speech of the 2013 session, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford issued a statement clarifying a confusing, but crucial, part of the speech.

Weatherford told House members on Tuesday that he opposed the expansion because it crossed the line of “proper government.” He shared an emotional story about his brother Peter, who died at 20-months in 1995 when he was 15.

His medical care was too expensive for his family to afford, but a “safety net” helped out, he said.

Weatherford, however, didn’t describe what that safety net was. When reached by the Times/Herald after the speech, Weatherford’s father said Medicaid paid more than $100,000 in costs.

Asked by reporters on Tuesday if Medicaid paid the bills, Weatherford said that it had not. When told that his father had said they were covered by Medicaid, Weatherford said he would learn more.

A day later, Weatherford said his research showed that medical care was paid for by the Medically Needy Program, which does get paid for with Medicaid dollars.

Here’s the release:

Tallahassee, FL – The following statement was released today by House Speaker Will Weatherford regarding his personal experience as an uninsured Floridian.

“Yesterday, I spoke about the death of my brother Peter and my family’s personal struggles. The hospital bills that accumulated from the wonderful care Peter received were insurmountable. We did not have health insurance because we couldn’t afford it.

“In speaking with my father prior to sharing this story, he believed the safety net that supported us was as a result of private and government funded charity. He did not believe that we were enrolled in Medicaid. After being questioned further by a reporter, my father recalled signing paperwork that may have resulted in Peter receiving Medicaid assistance after his surgery.

“As a result, my family worked to verify exactly what form of the safety net helped us in our time of need. Today, we learned that Peter was covered under the Medically Needy program, which is a temporary month to month form of assistance, while at All Children’s Hospital.

“It is not surprising that recollections would be cloudy surrounding a time of great sorrow and difficulty. Now that the safety net that benefitted my family has been clearly identified, I trust that the debate can return to the important question of Medicaid expansion and its impact on the economic and personal freedom of Floridians.

“As I stated yesterday, I believe in the safety net. My family benefitted from the safety net. Children living in poverty today are offered coverage under Medicaid or Kidcare in Florida. Expanding Medicaid will not extend coverage to a single low-income child under 18 in Florida because they are already covered, just like Peter was.

“The inflexible law that has been pushed down to states like Florida does not allow us to target populations that are vulnerable, but requires us to provide full coverage to populations that we have never covered before. There is no dispute that private insurance is better for the health, welfare, and true needs of Floridians. I look forward to continuing to work with the Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to investigate options that may be better for our state.”