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Four Tampa Bay area Republicans undecided as health care bill vote nears

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

When Paul Ryan pulled the American Health Care Bill off the floor of the House for a vote in March, it saved some Republicans from having to actually declare whether or not they supported the controversial legislation which would replace the Affordable Care Act.

Now, round two is taking place this week and Tampa Bay area Republican congressmen Gus Bilirakis and Daniel Webster remain undecided.

In a newsletter sent to constituents on Monday, Webster, who previously represented constituents in the Orlando-area before redistricting compelled him to run in the open CD 11 seat vacated by Rich Nugent, says he remains concerned about the new version of the American Health Care Act because Florida will be penalized under the bill because of demand for Medicaid-funded nursing home beds has not been fixed.

“This is critical to the access some of our senior population has to Florida nursing homes,” he writes. “Florida is a very efficient state when it comes to providing Medicaid services, however we are among the fastest growing states in the nation. Many seniors depend on Medicaid-funded nursing home beds when their Medicare coverage runs out.”

Webster says that the increase of Medicaid services, coupled with one of the fastest growing senior population in the country, “puts Florida particularly at risk for exceeding the costs established under the bill.”

“If a state’s costs exceeds the funds provided, the monies are taken out of the next year,” Webster writes. “I am concerned that this creates a vicious cycle of costs that – given our growth rate – Florida would likely never overcome. I continue to work with leadership and am still hopeful for a solution before bill comes up for a vote.”

Tarpon Springs Republican Bilirakis supported the March version of the American Health Care Act, even after enduring intense criticism at three town hall meetings he conducted to hear from his constituents regarding his support for repealing the ACA.

And now?

“He is undecided as conversations continue about the final form of the bill,” says Bilirakis spokesperson Elena Hernandez.

A spokesperson for Polk County Congressman Dennis Ross says he is uncertain as well.

“As the healthcare bill is still being tweaked and amended, Rep. Ross has not issued a position and will continue thoroughly analyzing and reviewing the final bill product before he does so,” said spokesperson Joni Schockey.

A spokesperson for Vern Buchanan says that with the bill still a work in progress, “Vern is going to wait until we see the final language,” says Gretchen Andersen. “One thing is clear – we need to replace the ACA with a new approach that lowers premiums, gives people choice and drives down the cost of health care.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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