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Senate passes healthcare bill by 33-3 vote

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It was not unanimous but the Florida Senate on Wednesday passed a bill off the floor to use Medicaid dollars under the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, to expand access to health care for low-income uninsured Floridians.

Passed by a 33-3 vote, SB 2A was amended and debated the same day so it could be sent to the House of Representatives, which remains steadfast in its opposition to the measure. But bill sponsor state Sen. Aaron Bean said he is hopeful that the bill will give the “spark that starts the dialogue” between the House and Senate and that a healthcare access plan will be developed.

SB 2A was passed after many members gave impassioned speeches about why the measure was important, from  sending a message to Washington, D.C., that a traditional Medicaid expansion won’t be endorsed in Florida to helping those who are in need help themselves.

It was amended to address concerns that the Agency for Health Care Administration had flagged with the proposal in a critical analysis of the bill that the agency shared with the House of Representatives, but not the Florida Senate. AHCA had flagged that the premium structure could result in a “death spiral” because FHIX plans could not be medically underwritten but the subsidies new enrollees would have access to would be risk adjusted, meaning healthier people would get less subsidies and sicker people higher subsidies.

AHCA, bill sponsor Bean said, helped Senate staff address the potential death spiral issues and drafted two amendments that were tagged onto the bill. However, the amendments were not enough for agency Secretary Liz Dudek to endorse the plan. Dudek’s boss is Gov. Rick Scott, who has flipped positions on Medicaid expansion.

“We still have many concerns with other areas of the bill, which would make it uncertain whether the FHIX plan will be able to provide more Floridians with health coverage,” Dudek said in a press statement.

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