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Gwen Graham: ‘Health care is a right’

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Former Congresswoman and now Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham on Tuesday rapped the U.S. Senate’s proposed Obamacare replacement, saying “if you get quality health care, you can have a miracle.”

Graham, speaking to reporters in the state Capitol, was referring to her husband’s recent cancer remission. Steve Hurm was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer last year.

Acknowledging that her family has good insurance coverage, “I want that for everyone,” she said. “No one should be put in a position where they can’t get the health care they deserve.”

Her announcement came shortly after fellow Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum said he was “calling for a constitutional amendment declaring affordable healthcare a fundamental right for all Floridians.”

Graham stood next to a pile of petitions she said opposed Congress’ repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama‘s signature legislative achievement. She planned on delivering the petitions to Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s Tallahassee office after her press conference.

Senate leaders scrambled Tuesday to rescue their health care bill, however, in deepening jeopardy as opposition from rebellious Republicans intensified. The defections proliferated after Congress’ nonpartisan budget referee said the measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than under Obamacare.

Graham, who represented north Florida’s 2nd Congressional District from 2015-17, also said “we should be expanding Medicaid” to cover more poor and working poor Floridians.

Efforts to do so in the Legislature have failed, faced by staunch opposition from House Republican leadership and Gov. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican and former head of a for-profit hospital chain.

“How do (they) sleep at night … knowing that decisions they have made caused people to die?” Graham said. “Where is the humanity? … We want to take care of people; we want to help people.”

She was joined by the mother of a child with the same generic heart disorder that late-night host Jimmy Kimmel‘s son has, and Dr. Louis St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatric cardiologist who was involved in the controversial 2011 “Docs vs. Glocks” state law that aimed to stop doctors from asking patients about guns in their homes.

“The essential health benefits (of Obamacare) are what all children need,” he said, mentioning “checkups, immunizations and access to hospitalization” when needed.

The Senate bill, on the other hand, “which many people don’t know what’s in it, is heartless,” Graham said. She also opposes Medicaid block grants, which House Speaker Richard Corcoran and others in the Legislature favor.

In response to a question about Gillum’s proposal, she added: “I think health care is a right, but I want to make sure the way we go about it is too.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.)

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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