In HD 65 race, Carl Zimmerman blasts opponent Chris Sprowls for Medicaid gaffe

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“You might be physically better off not to have insurance than Medicaid.”

Those were the words out of Chris Sprowls mouth yesterday during a Suncoast Tiger Bay luncheon in St. Pete. His opponent, Carl Zimmerman, isn’t wasting the golden nugget plopped right in his lap for a second.

“It’s an outrage that Chris Sprowls believes Floridians would be better off without any health insurance than to have Medicaid,” Zimmerman wrote in a statement. 

What Zimmerman’s statement doesn’t say is that Sprowls almost instantly realized what he said wasn’t going to look so good to voters and followed it up with, “I don’t know if I believe that.”

After-the-fact qualifiers aside, this could be the “if you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance” gaffe of the north Pinellas District 65 race.

Florida is home to almost 1 million people who would have qualified for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but now don’t because the Republican-controlled legislature turned down federal funding to expand the program.

Worse for that group, because of the way insurance exchanges work based on the healthcare law, those individuals who earn less than the federal poverty level don’t qualify for a subsidy on private insurance. That means someone earning $11,670 a year or less would have to pay more for their health insurance than someone making as much as $45,960.

“I suspect that the 3.2 million Floridians – including thousands of seniors, mothers, fathers and children in Pinellas – who rely on Medicaid to provide health care would strongly disagree [with Sprowls],” Zimmerman’s statement continued. “I know from years of experience as a teacher and community member that Medicaid can mean the difference between taking a sick child to the doctor or ‘waiting to see’. It’s the difference between families just scraping by, or filing for bankruptcy from medical bills. It can be the difference between life and death”

Zimmerman and other Tallahassee Democrats fought a hard battle during the last legislative session to compromise and accept funds, but to no avail. Many supporters of Medicaid expansion called on a special session to re-visit the issue and are still holding out hope something will be done. Left on the table is a shrinking pot filled with $51 billion in federal dollars.

Zimmerman also took a bit of a shot at his opponent based on an illness Sprowls had as a child. He survived Hodgkins disease in high school.

The fact that my opponent has faced a serious illness – as I have – makes this statement all the more shocking in its lack of compassion and complete lack of understanding of our health care system,” said Zimmermann

This is a stark contrast between how my opponent and I would work for Florida families: I’ve been fighting to expand access to affordable care while Chris Sprowls would like to limit the options Floridians have for their health care.”

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email