TALLAHASSEE -- Firmly sticking a wedge between the House and Senate, the House passed a controversial low income health insurance bill that would reject federal money and instead use state dollars to give health care stipends to 115,700.
The plan, which passed 71-45, is in stark contrast to the Senate plan, which takes federal money to insure about 1 million people by putting them into private insurance plans made availalable through Florida Healthy Kids, a health insurance program for low income kids.
The House has been adamant though that it would not accept federal dollars, made available through the Affordable Care Act, because it did not trust the federal government to make good on its promise to fund a Medicaid expansion at 100 percent for the next three years.
Instead, it opted to put forth a plan that would use state dollars to give $2,000 stipends to working parents from 22 percent to 100 percent of the federal poverty line, and let about another 353,545 who are from 100-138 percent of the poverty line would then get insurance thorugh the federal exchange program, which would offer subsidies to those people to buy health care.
"We are shifting the dialogue to quality health care, improved access and long term innovative solutions for lforidians, while allso strengthening our traditional safety net," said state Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, who is the sponsor of the legislation.
Democrats trashed the plan though, saying it did not cover enough people and the amount given per person would not let them buy quality health care. House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston said that the proposal was simply "insufficient."
"When you talk about 1.2 million people who need coverage in the state of Florida and you give us 115,000, that misses the mark," he said.
House and Senate leaders have been negotiating for the past few days, but there appears to be little progress on that front. The House flatly rejected an amendment to its bill yesterday that would have made it virtually identical to the Senate plan.
Republicans said that the proposal was akin to traditional expansion of Medicaid -- though Senate sponsor Joe Negron has disputed that point -- and called Medicaid a "broken down system."