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Politics

Legislator: Don Gaetz Wanted to Expand Medicaid, Will Weatherford Ruined It

March 4, 2013 - 6:00pm

As the 2013 session of the Legislature kicks off, one freshman representative tells Sunshine State News that Senate President Don Gaetz was of a mind to join Gov. Rick Scott in endorsing Florida's adoption of Medicaid expansion, but he was thwarted from doing so by the House.

It sounds as if the president of the Senate is favoring expansion of Medicaid along with the governor, but it won't happen because we don't have all three groups, the Senate, the House, and the governor [on board], a disgruntledRep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, told SSN Tuesday.

GOP leaders in the Legislature House Speaker Will Weatherford, President Gaetz, and the committee chairs and vice-chairs had remained relatively tight-lipped, in the weeks preceding session, about whether they would endorse the state's adoption of the 2010 federal health-care law's optional provisions for Medicaid expansion and the establishment of state-managed health insurance exchanges.

That is, until yesterday, when the House Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act voted, along party lines, to decline both.

I am opposed to Medicaid expansion because I believe it crosses the line of the proper role of government, Weatherford told the House during his speech opening the session, in his strongest remarks yet on the subject. I believe it forces Florida to expand a broken system that we have been battling Washington to fix, and I believe it will ultimately drive up the cost of health care.

The Senate's own select committee was supposed to vote on the matter on Monday as well, but has postponed it, chairman Joe Negron saying senators needed more time to study the issue.

Protecting his own source's identity, Dudley told SSN that a 'little birdie' told me that the president of the Senate was getting off an elevator, and someone 'thought' they heard [Gaetz] say, 'It takes three out of three, not two out of three,' and [Gaetz] seemed concerned. Take that for what's it's worth.

If the anecdote is accurate, Gaetz could only have been referring to the Senate's inclination to join Gov. Scott in supporting Medicaid expansion, because unanimity (between the governor, the House, and the Senate) is only needed to adopt the expansion, not to decline it.

Dudley suggested that, with the House effectively determined not to take up the matter, Senate Republicans known to be more ideologically moderate than their House counterparts might be changing their tune in an effort to save face with their conservative constituents.

The dynamic is all changed, Dudley explained, referring to the consequences of the House select committee's Monday vote. Why step out on the plank if you know it's a loser, ultimately? Why take any chances and upset your base?

Gaetz's office would not explicitly confirm or deny Dudley's story on Tuesday.

President Gaetz has not yet made a personal decision regarding Medicaid expansion and will not do so until the Senate PPACA Committee has completed its work, spokesman Katherine Betta told SSN.

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com and (954) 235-9116.

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