TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature has resisted expanding medicaid to Florida's uninsured working poor, but a bill has been filed to put the same elected officials on the program.
Florida lawmakers rejected expanding the Medicaid program in 2015. It came in the face of a health care budget shortfall and pleas from the uninsured to accept federal money to grant almost 1 million Floridians access to coverage.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, who opposed expansion, now has a different idea.
"I don't think that politicians ought to get better health care than the poorest people in the state of Florida," Gaetz said.
Gaetz filed a bill for 2016 that would put all elected officials on a health plan that's in line with Medicaid, a system Gaetz said is broken.
"I think that if we had the experiences of poor people who had to drive from Pensacola to Tallahassee to see a specialist, we'd be more likely to fix that system," Gaetz said.
Critics said the proposal doesn't address the more critical need of access to coverage.
House Democratic leader Mark Pafford said the uninsured people in the state don't have time for a bill like Gaetz's.
"There are hundreds of thousands of people waiting for us that don't want us to play gimmicky games on the House floor and don't want us to file bills that in the end aren't going to deliver health care. That's what we should be doing," Pafford said. "Before we go and jam 600,000 more people into a system that's failing the most vulnerable, why don't we actually get to the business of fixing that system so that it is worthy of people that need help the most."
More than 140 members of the Florida Legislature are currently enrolled in a taxpayer subsidized state group health insurance plan.
Lawmakers currently pay $50 a month for their insurance plans and $180 a month for family plans.