After more than six hours of debate the Florida House of Representatives on Friday shot down a bipartisan proposal to expand access to health care to hundreds of thousands of Floridians by a 41-72 vote, bringing to an end the issue that brought the regular 2015 session to a grinding halt and had Republicans fighting Republicans.
It was a mostly partisan vote but four Republicans did join forces with Democrats to support the measure: Reps. Ray Pilon, Shawn Harrison, Rene Plasencia, and Holly Raschein.
House members on both sides of the aisle passionately debated the issue, some referencing Scriptures, others quoting U.S. presidents. Rep. Jimmie Smith cursed on the floor of the House of Representatives. Many members talked about “dancing,” a not-so-subtle reference to state Rep. Richard Corcoran‘s speech about refusing to “dance” with the Senate on Medicaid expansion.
Throughout the 2015 regular session House members expressed concerns that Medicaid was a broken system that should not be expanded and, moreover, that the underlying costs of health care is too expensive. And they honed in on the hospital industry–one of the leading proponents of the Medicaid expansion–as the industry driving those costs.
State Rep. Jose Oliva said that while Florida families and workers struggled to get out of a recession the hospitals, which he calls the “healthcare industrial complex industry,” was having a “Golden Age. The best time they have ever enjoyed.”
Oliva, who is slated to be House speaker following Corcoran, told members that hospitals have an “ingenious” way of showing a profit and a loss on the same transaction.
“If you are able to buy an aspirin for $1 and you can bill it for $100 but you get paid $50 then you can come over the to state and show uncompensated care for $50 but you can also show your shareholders a profit of $49,” he said.
“That’s ingenious. But they’ve done it and they’ve done it with tremendous success.”
Oliva got a standing ovation from Republican members on the floor for the remarks.
State Rep. Jason Brodeur, chairman of the House Health & Human Services Committee, shared similar sentiment. He said that Medicaid expansion will not do anything to lower the overall costs of health care and that, if expanded, Florida would lose its sovereignty.
In light of FHIX Brodeur said the House will pursue a policy that would allow direct primary care in conjunction with catastrophic savings accounts. Direct primary care is when a patient sees a doctor outside the realm of insurance and the bill is slated to be brought up in his committee next week.
Brodeur said the House also will push for “flexibility” and allow recovery care centers that would compete with hospitals. That bill, also, will be heard in committee next week.
“In short, it took us 50 years to get here,” Brodeur said of Florida’s delivery system. “But we are going to start peeling back the onion.”
Brodeur said he was proud of the more than six hours of debate the House had on the FHIX bill and that he “looks forward to the Senate having debate” on the House bills he mentioned.
While some members’ speeches focused on dollars and cents, others shared personal stories. State Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, shared a story about attending his sister’s funeral right before the start of the special session and watching his father cry. Because no matter how old your children are, Powell said, “they’re still your babies.”
Bill sponsor state Rep. Mia Jones closed on the bill, telling members that “a vote for FHIX is a vote for the people of Florida. A vote for FHIX is a vote to say that every single human life has value.”