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Joe Biden takes Miami, the Obamacare edition


Vice President Biden boarded a black GMC Yukon with Washington, DC plates and left Miami International Airport in a Wednesday motorcade that led to a drugstore diner on Bird Road in Miami.

On the way, all traffic was temporarily stopped -- including a Florida East Coast cargo train, which was detained while police officers manually held up the crossing gate so the motorcade could pass.

Some motorists and pedestrians snapped photos of the motorcade. Three women standing on Bird Road and about Southwest 64 Ave held up two poster boards with handwritten messages: "Stop Deportation Now" and "Immigration Reform".

Vice President Biden was greeted at Allen's drugstore and S&S diner by the owner, Carlos Cardona.

Biden strode into the diner, raised his arms in greeting and embraced Randell Perry, a certified application counselor wearing a Jessie Trice Community health center shirt.

Biden complimented Perry on her teeth, and joined Perry and four other women at a center table.

Also seated at the table was Karen Egozi, president of the Epilepsy Foundation; Annie Neasman, president of the Jessie Trice Community Health Center; and three others.

"I'm so sorry I'm late," Biden told the women. "There's weather coming down."

Biden sat down at the table and encouraged the women.

"As my mother would say, you're doing God's work," he said.

One woman, Marla Harrington, brought her 17-year-old daughter, Delaney, who has a pre-existing condition, Krohn's disease, her mother said.

Biden invited Delaney to join them at the table. She was seated at the counter.

Biden then removed his blue coat and began talking health insurance.

"The thing we don't talk about with health insurance," Biden said, "is it gives people peace of mind."
Biden noted that Neasman is a nurse.

"If there are any angels in heaven," he said, "they're all nurses."

Biden noted that 3.3 million people have enrolled for private health plans through the ACA's exchanges, including nearly 300,000 in Florida.

He looked to the women and said, "Tell me what's working. Tell me what's not working. Tell me what's happening."

Then Biden addressed the fact that Florida has not accepted te federal government's offer of an estimated $50 billion over the next ten years to expand Medicaid.

"If your governor would take the money,"" Biden said, "there would be another 880,000 people covered."
Biden said the federal health law "is finally on track" after a slow start in October due to technical problems with the website,

Press pool members then were escorted out for about 15 minutes, and then returned to hear Biden and the women talk.

"What we're talking about here is not the gross numbers" of Americans who have gained coverage through the law, Biden said. "These are people who actually are in the neighborhood."

He noted that some of the women at the table are helping others sign up.

Perry told a story of a woman she helped on Wednesday morning.

"She was recently receiving unemployment" benefits, Perry said of the client, who also had no health insurance.

"She needed to see a doctor," Perry said.

Perry said she helped the woman find a plan with no deductible and no premium after she qualified for federal financial aid.

"She gave me a big hug and said, thank you, thank you, thank you," Perry said of the woman.

Biden then spoke about those Floridians who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to be eligible for federal financial aid to but a plan on the exchanges.

"There are people who fall between the cracks," he said. "In the state of Florida, there are 880,000 people who tomorrow would have wealth coverage" if the state legislature expanded Medicaid.

The alternative for those who fall into te so-called coverage gap, Biden said, is to go to a hospital emergency room, which costs much more and gets passed on to consumers through higher insurance rates.

Biden said he also was interested in hearing about the health law's shortcomings, though no one was heard to complain.

He then told the press pool assembled behind the counter, "imagine yourselves, all of you, if you did not have health insurance an you got sick. It doesn't take much for a debt to get to $10,000, $12,000 ... $30,000... It doesn't take a catastrophic event for that to happen." 

From there, Biden headed to a Coral Gables fundraiser for Alex Sink, the former state chief financial officer who's running for a St. Petersburg congressional seat.