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Sen. Garcia says House GOP should get on board with Medicaid expansion


 There is a large, bipartisan coalition that supports using federal Medicaid expansion dollars to provide insurance coverage to poor, working-class Floridians. But their efforts were blocked last year by House Republicans.

That hasn't stopped Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami, and Rep. Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey, from trying again by filing identical bills asking for reconsideration of the failed plan. Both joined the League of Women Voters of Florida for a rally today where they implored the House GOP to "take the money."

Both SB 710 and HB 869 have been referred to committees but have yet to be slotted for a hearing. Garcia feels confident he will get one in the Senate, but Murphy may have a tougher road. She spoke to House leaders before filing the bill but there is no indication the Republican majority is willing to budge.

Business and civic groups that support Medicaid expansion have to work to change that, Garcia said.

"We just need to get the message out, educate the House members and put the pressure on the leaderhsip in the House to accept these dollars and move forward," Garcia said.

Rep. Richard Corcoran, who chairs two of the three committees where HB 869 was referred, said he spoke with Murphy, gave her some literature to read and is willing to talk more.

"I'll have a conversation with anyone, anytime, any place about public policy," Corcoran, R-Trinity, said today.  But he would not commit to allowing Murphy's proposal to be heard in his committees.

During the rally, both lawmakers talked about the amount of federal dollars that Florida has accepted over the years for education, transportation, economic development and even health care. Garcia said rejecting Medicaid expansion funding doesn't pay down the national debt, it just goes to other states who have implemented the program.

"Be consistent in your policy-making," Garcia said. "That's the message we need to send back."

Murphy, who won a seat in the Legislature last year partially because of her support of Medicaid expansion, had never met Garcia until they linked up on this issue.

"This bill is not about politics," she said. "It is about human beings. It is about lives."