Candidates for Governor speak about health reform

06/18/10 Kate Bradshaw
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In Sarasota yesterday, three major candidates vying for the governor’s mansion made their cases in front of a roomful of journalists and political junkies. Notably absent was Republican Rick Scott, who said he was busy filling out election paperwork in Tallahassee. The candidates who did show up spoke on a gamut of issues, and health care was front and center.

Democrat Alex Sink said she wouldn’t carry out the lawsuit that Attorney General Bill McCollum brought against the federal government over health care reform. Sink, the state’s Chief Financial Officer, might face McCollum, a Republican, in November. She said the medical care overhaul, which Congress passed in March is the law of the land, and that Floridians need the new law.

"It is important that Florida understand and know how to take advantage of the law of the land, how to be sure that our small business owners know that many of them are going to be able to get a 30% tax credit against their Health Insurance expenses this year. That people who have been denied in my office, we take 300,000 calls a year, approximately, from Floridians who are having trouble with insurance. Over and over again. Number one problem: I thought I had insurance. I've been paying insurance. I got sick. I got seriously sick. I called my insurance company, they said, 'Oops! By the way, you didn't check off box number 50, on page 10. You don't really have insurance.' That is not permitted anymore."

Lawton 'Bud' Chiles, who recently entered the governor’s race without party affiliation, said that depriving children of health coverage will lead to greater problems down the road.

"One of the great tragedies, in Florida, is the uninsured. For us to have 850,000 children uninsured, in Florida, speaks volumes about us as people, and about our future. We cannot continue that. I mean, to see the kind of waiting list that there is for kid care. To see the barriers that there are for people to be able to access that, and the fact that we are not putting the money in there. All that means, is that we're going to serve more and more kids in emergency rooms. Again, it's an investment in failure, rather than an investment in success."

But Attorney General Bill McCollum stuck to his guns.

"I will tell you, I think I was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party."

McCollum brought suit against the federal government in March shortly after the reform passed, and said he hopes to move it forward as Florida’s next governor. He said the law will cost the state dearly.

"I think this health care legislation that got passed into law, is very, very, very difficult for everybody. Can you imagine, after what we just talked about, in physical matters? If you put aside the individual mandate that I think interferes with individual freedom and choice, and certainly something that I'm opposed to, that's in that bill, that requires to to buy health insurance policy. Imagine what would happen, since our budget is already 27% of it for Medicaid. If millions more go on the Medicaid rolls the next few years, what's going to happen to Florida, if we have to pay for it? That's a huge issue for us."

Critics say that the Attorney General brought the suit solely for political reasons, given the complex law’s unpopularity with most Republicans as well as the 'tea party' movement.

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