The Florida House of Representatives voted Friday to reject a state Senate bill that would have expanded Medicaid for thousands, marking a victory for Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Following a heated six-hour debate, the Republican-controlled House voted 72-41 against the measure, which passed in the state Senate earlier this week. The proposal would have used $18 billion in federal funds over a decade to help low-income workers purchase health care plans from private providers. The program would have expanded Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of Floridians.
However, Republican state lawmakers have been vehemently opposed to using Affordable Care Act funds to expand health care in Florida. Scott had said he would reject the legislation if it passed.
During debate in the House, opponents derided the legislation as expensive, overreaching and “just Obamacare with a clever name," as state Rep. John Wood (R) put it.
“It's something we cannot afford, not only in Florida but in the rest of the nation, if we have government controlled health care,” state Rep. Doug Broxson (R) said, according to The New York Times. "History tells us that anything the government is involved in tends to expand. I’m very concerned that we could spend all our gross national product on health care, and it would take away from every other program we have in the state."
Democrats charged that Republicans were overly focused on voting against Medicaid expansion and, according to House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, "were battling a demon that doesn't exist."
"If [this bill] is not the answer, then what is?'' Pafford asked, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "We'll be back and we'll be talking about the same issue because it's going to haunt the state of Florida."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Florida has the second-highest uninsured rate in the country, with 24.3 percent of residents lacking health care in 2013.
Friday's vote marks the third time Florida legislators have rejected expanding health care since the Affordable Care Act passed.
Scott, meanwhile, has changed his mind on the issue several times. He initially opposed expanding Medicaid under the health care law, citing concerns over job growth. Then in 2013, he reversed course, citing his mother's death in professing his support for bringing federal funds to Florida to broaden health care coverage. The governor later backed off on his support, and earlier this year announced he would sue the federal government for allegedly forcing his state to expand Medicaid by withholding federal hospital funds.