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Don Gaetz Jabs Rick Scott on Medicaid Expansion: 'Proposed Before he Opposed It'

Former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and a possible contender for the U.S. House if U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., opts for a Senate bid, offered his take on the stalemate over Medicaid expansion in the Florida Legislature. On Monday, Gaetz sent out a message to his constituents and he jabbed Gov. Rick Scott on the matter.

The hard fact, of course, is that uninsured Floridians do get sick, do get injured and do pile up many hundreds of millions of dollars in uncompensated care at our hospitals and clinics, Gaetz wrote. Since there are no free bandages nor free medicines nor free wheelchairs, hospitals and other providers shift those costs onto the rest of us in higher charges on our medical bills and higher health insurance premiums. To do nothing means that cost-shifting continues, and grows worse, and small businesses and working families pay the price.

People of good will in both the House and Senate disagree about what to do with this hard fact, Gaetz added. Disagreement about policy isnt a failure in our system. When our founders created three equal branches of government and two legislative chambers, they purposefully built tension into the system. Sharp, passionate, well-evidenced debate is how we grind through policy options, consider all views, vet and refine proposals and ultimately achieve solutions. As former Senate President Jeff Atwater counseled the Senate in his farewell address, Never fear the debate.

The problem now is that the debate has turned sour and ugly," Gaetz continued. Some of the advocates have become petulant, even intolerant. Solutions have given way to sloganeering. The personal respect and trust between legislative leaders and between the Legislature and the governor, which is the WD-40 that otherwise eases the way to compromise, is missing this year. In other words, Tallahassee at its worst is taking on the identity of Washington at its best.

Gaetz turned his eyes toward the special session which begins at the start of next month.

On June 1, the House and Senate will be back in session to try to work out differences and pass a budget, Gaetz wrote. Unlike some pundits and politicians, I believe our June budget session will be successful. I believe the time away from lobbyists and politicians, the time at home, face-to-face with constituents, will cool hot heads and remind us that voters hold all of us responsible for results. Unlike Washington, there will be no government shutdown. Unlike Washington, we will not only pass a budget, but we will balance the budget. Unlike Washington, Florida will live within its means. Thats why our state will continue its remarkable recovery and growing prosperity, which in many ways lead the nation and outpace other states of our size.

Gaetz then turned his fire toward Scott for being inconsistent on Medicaid expansion.

Personally, I dont support solving the health-care coverage issue by just expanding Medicaid, as Governor Scott proposed before he opposed it, Gaetz insisted. I do support the plan which Senator Joe Negron authored which provides premium assistance for the uninsured to buy private insurance in the private market. In fact, the Negron plan would entirely eliminate Medicaid in favor of an all-private sector/private market approach to health care coverage. I do support Senator Aaron Beans plan that, in return for coverage in the private market, able-bodied people who are uninsured have to get jobs or get trained for jobs, work for their benefits and pay at least some of the costs out of their own pockets. I also believe the Senate should listen to House leaders who have ideas for increasing health care competition and hopefully decreasing costs.

Despite that, Gaetz closed on an optimistic note.

There is a path to solutions, but it winds its way through compromise and respect, Gaetz wrote in conclusion. Based on the formal call for the special session as published this past Friday, I have confidence that President Andy Gardiner, Speaker Steve Crisafulli, and Budget Chairs Richard Corcoran and Tom Lee can find that path.

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