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Senate Democrats fail to gain voice on proposed health panel

Senate Democrats failed Wednesday to get representation on a newly-proposed Health Outcomes Review Commission that's a part of the Senate's so-called FHIX plan to expand health insurance to more low-income Floridians.

The nine-member commission would be comprised of three elected officials, three health care professionals and three business representatives with Gov. Rick Scott. The Senate and House would appoint three people from each category.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, suggested that the commission be expanded to 11 members to include an appointment by the Senate and House minority leaders, both of whom are Democrats. Republicans rejected the idea on an unrecorded voice vote.

With a commission dominated by Republican appointees, "Some conspiracy theorists would think, 'They've already rigged the results,'" said Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale. "We just want bipartisan representation. Why can't all the Senate be included?"

Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said adding two legislative appointees would throw the appointments out of balance and diminish Scott's power to shape the commission.

The three-page amendment creating the commission is another attempt by the Senate to placate a skeptical House, which is expected to defeat the bill (SB 2A). The amendment includes a "sunset" provision abolishing the state-run health program by July 1, 2018, unless it's re-enacted by the Legislature. The program would disappear sooner than that if the federal government's matching contribution to the program under the Affordable Care Act falls below 90 percent.