Medical professionals show up at Fla. Capital in Medicaid debate

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - State lawmakers have already said "no" to Gov. Rick Scott's plan to expand Medicaid to a million working poor, but that didn't stop dozens of medical professionals from showing up at the state Capitol on Tuesday to push for the program.

In addition to patient care, billions of dollars are at stake.

Karen Hagans came to the Capitol from Jacksonville to support efforts to increase care for the working poor. A diabetic, she says without Medicaid, she wouldn't be here.

"My sugar level was over 1,200 and I should've been dead or in a coma, but they saved me," Hagans said.

The event brought dozens of health care professionals to the Capitol. At stake is as much as $50 billion over 10 years.

"The University of Florida study shows that it will create 54,000 jobs in this state," said Erin Ennis, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital board member.

The expansion could provide needed care for up to a million working poor and keep them out of Lisa Sgariata's emergency room.

"They will be able to afford the primary care that they need to get that preventive care so they don't end up in emergency department," said Sgariata, of Lee Memorial Hospital.

The expansion proposed by Scott has already been killed by key House and Senate committees. State Rep. Mike Fasano has harsh words for his colleagues.

"It's another excuse not to accept federal dollars and help those who need help," said Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

But the senator in charge says the criticism isn't fair. He doesn't want to expand Medicaid, but he does wants a totally new approach.

"We're not going to put you on Medicaid. We're going to give you a private health insurance card like your fellow citizens have," said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

The governor's written response to the defeat was short and sweet, saying only that he knows that lawmakers will do the right thing.

But coming up with an entirely new health plan to help people like Hagans in just seven weeks is a heavy lift for lawmakers.

Anything outside and outright the expansion of Medicaid will require a lengthy federal approval process.

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