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Citizens demand healthcare

Citizens demand healthcare

By Marie Carrie Email:

In its’ last session, the Florida Legislature rejected over $52 billion in federal funding that would provide health insurance coverage for working families. This leaves approximately 1.2 million Floridians without health insurance.

On Tuesday June 25, 2013, several protestors took to the northwest corner of Andrews Avenue and 1st street to express their concern. Signs were held and chants were yelled as embittered citizens sought support in their battle against a heavily entrenched partisan state government intent on using politics to promote a personal agenda that ignores citizen needs.

To address these concerns, the Broward County Legislative Delegation (BCLD) held a Town Hall meeting on Healthcare at the Broward County Government Center on the evening of the 25th.

The meeting was headed by State Senator Eleanor Sobel, Chair of the BCLD and State Representative Jim Waldman, Vice Chair of the BCLD.  State Representative Perry Thurston Jr. and Senator Christopher Smith were also present and joined by several other lawmakers on the panel.

Prior to the floor being opened to community questions and concerns, each panelist made an opening remark. The over-arching position amongst the lawmakers remained one of frustration, but also determination.

“We missed and opportunity but the opportunity has not slipped through our fingers yet,” stated Representative Thurston. He went on to say that the BCLD needs to call for a special legislation to address the issue of Florida accepting the federal funding for Obama Care.

Senator Smith answered this call by making a motion that “we as a delegation send a letter to the Governor, Speaker of the House and President of the Senate asking for a special session to discuss only healthcare and the affordable care act.”

Senator Smith’s motion was seconded and unanimously passed to a round of enthusiastic clapping and one loud “Boo” from the audience.

It was clear from their remarks that the lawmakers felt that the republican political agenda was at the heart of the failure of Obama Care funding to pass in the state legislature. Florida has a not only a republican Governor but a republican controlled House of Representatives and Senate.

Representative Shevrin Jones stated, “I cannot believe that my republican brothers and sisters are playing politics over peoples lives.”  Democratic representative Jim Waldman went on to balance this view and offer hope by stating that, “you as well as the people that you know throughout the state (can) put the pressure on those House Republicans who have the ability to actually voice their own opinions and that vote their own conscious.”

According to Waldman, while many members of the “rank and file” of the Republican Party are forced to vote along party lines, there are those members with the autonomy to cross the political divide in the best interest of Floridians.

A major part of the Obama Care package that was rejected by the legislature is Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is the state and federal program that provides healthcare coverage to the nation’s poorest, including children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Current income requirements prohibit many poor people from qualifying for Medicaid coverage. In fact Karen Woodall from the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy stunned many in the audience when she cited that a single individual living at 100 percent of the poverty line (which is $11,490 a year in Florida) does not qualify for coverage.

One such individual was represented by her daughter Deena Jones. During the question and answer portion of the town hall meeting, Ms. Jones shared with the panelists and audience members how her uninsured mother was diagnosed with colon cancer several years ago. After two bouts of chemotherapy and over $400,000 in medical care costs she died.

Before her death in 2010 she stated that “if the affordable care act had been a law a few years ago, I would have had a colonoscopy and doctors could have caught it in time. But now it is too late for me. Deena, as soon as you get on Medicare, have a colonoscopy because colon cancer runs in our family.”

Ms. Jones’ story was one of many shared during the three-hour town hall meeting. Doctors, businessmen and everyday citizens shared their medical struggles and their commitment to reform. And while the BCLD was a receptive audience, everyone in attendance left knowing that real change would not happen unless lawmakers were pressured into action.

And to facilitate just that, everyone was encouraged to contact Governor Rick Scott at (850) 717-9337 and Speaker of the House Will Weatherford at (813) 558-5115 and ask for a special session, so that Florida can stop failing it’s families and start helping them.



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