Shawn Harrison a rare GOP House member “open” to Medicaid expansion plan


In a letter published on Sunday in The Tampa Tribune’s editorial section, Tampa House District 63 Republican Shawn Harrison writes that he is “open to a plan for private health coverage that draws down federal dollars with reasonable review, opt-out and sunset provisions included. Perhaps that can be some trial version of the Senate plan. “

He adds in the next paragraph, though, that “all of us view the Senate plan in its current format with trepidation, and rightly so.”

Harrison then recites the familiar critical talking points from House Republicans in Tallahassee when discussing the Medicaid expansion issue, that “a $50 billion ‘free money’ handout is not free.” He then criticizes Medicaid coverage, and writes that there are “case studies in other states where Medicaid patients still use emergency rooms for primary care.”

It shouldn’t surprise too many that Harrison is the rare House Republican showing  rare nuance on the issue. When campaigning for the seat against incumbent Democrat Mark Danish last year, he indicated similar thoughs. Writing for Creative Loafing last fall, this reporter wrote, “The former Tampa City Councilmember says he’s the rare Republican who can see the virtue in expanding Medicaid to get people health care.”

It also should be noted that House District 63, which encompasses North Tampa, Carrollwood, Lake Magdalene, Lutz, and the USF area, is a rare swing-district in Hillsborough County. Democrat Mike Reedy has already announced his candidacy and has begin holding fundraisers to try to oust Harrison in 2016.

The Legislature ended its regular session early last month, failing to come together to pass a budget because of the divisions between the House and Senate regarding Medicaid expansion.

Read the letter in its entirety:

As a member of the Florida House of Representatives, I wanted to share my thoughts on the recent session and upcoming special session.

By now, most Floridians are aware that the Florida House decided to end its regular legislative session three days early. This was a surprise to most members, including me, but on reflection, the right decision.

Good policy cannot be dictated by artificial time frames. As the regular session was winding down, it became clear that the natural and beneficial conflict that exists between the House and Senate was devolving into an impasse. It was time for a break, to return home to visit family and friends, talk to constituents and come back after a little down-to-earth time back in our districts.

The impasse on the budget resulted from the Senate’s insistence on Medicaid expansion, and the House leadership’s steadfast opposition.

Make no mistake, both chambers share the goal of providing affordable, accessible and quality care to every Floridian and making certain the 800,000 Floridians without health care insurance that Medicaid expansion seeks to help will achieve that goal. No American should be without health care options, but we Republicans do not believe that universal government health care is preferable, or that subsidizing able-bodied adults who choose not to work is good public policy.

It means we all share a goal, and it’s the method of delivering that goal that has caused this conflict.

The district I was elected to represent is a melting pot of cultures, religions and heritages. My experience in government, business and, indeed, in life has taught me the value of engaging competing viewpoints, kicking opposing ideas around and adopting the best ideas from all sides. If everyone has a seat at the table and some skin in the game, you build a team. In this case, our common goal is quality, affordable health care for everyone who needs it.

As I have stated many times, I am open to a plan for private health coverage that draws down federal dollars with reasonable review, opt-out and sunset provisions included. Perhaps that can be some trial version of the Senate plan.

But all of us view the Senate plan in its current format with trepidation, and rightly so. A $50 billion “free money” handout is not free. There is evidence that Medicaid coverage does not improve clinical outcomes. There are case studies in other states where Medicaid patients still use emergency rooms for primary care. And, most importantly, here in Hillsborough County, we already pay an additional one-half cent sales tax to provide health care for the indigent, up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

We are taking care of our own in Tampa, and no member of the Hillsborough legislative delegation should support statewide Medicaid expansion if it harms residents already being covered by our local plan.

I am a proud Ronald Reagan Republican. He was famous for being able to work out his political differences with those who disagreed with him. I spent four years as a Tampa city councilman with a masterful politician and good man named Dick Greco. Neither of us ever sacrificed our core principles, but we always found ways to work around our differences.

I am confident good policy can prevail in Tallahassee if we are willing to find common ground — 800,000 Floridians without health care will be better off if we do.

Shawn Harrison


Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was 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 and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].


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