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TALLAHASSEE, FLA.10/25/17-Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, during the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Influence

Senate pitches health care alternative for veterans

A state Senate proposal would authorize Florida to begin negotiations with the federal government to see if the state could offer managed health-care programs to veterans and their families as an alternative to the health system provided by the federal Veterans Administration.

The Senate could vote on the proposal (SB 440) as soon as Wednesday.

Sponsor Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, agreed Tuesday to add an amendment to make clear the proposal is not designed to expand Medicaid for veterans in Florida. Instead, he said the proposal would authorize discussions with the federal government to discuss opening access to the Medicaid managed-care infrastructure of health plans and physicians.

The bill would authorize the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families to jointly negotiate with federal agencies to seek approval for a waiver, a state-plan amendment, or other approval for federal funding for the “Florida Veterans Care” program.

The amendment was intended to provide comfort to House members who thought the proposal was an attempt to expand Medicaid, Garcia said.

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House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, has been steadfast in his opposition to expanding Medicaid.

The federal Veterans Administration system serves more than 1.5 million Floridians, which is the third highest population of veterans in the country. Over half of the state’s veterans are age 65 and older, according to a staff analysis of the bill.

Garcia made a plea to members of the Florida House of Representatives and Corcoran to “not stand in the way” of negotiations.

“Our veterans deserve better,” Garcia said. “Enough with using our veterans as political pawns. The time is now to ensure that we take care of our veterans.”

House committees have not heard the House version of the bill (HB 403).

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