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Congressman Charlie Crist speaks to Andrew Gillum supporters about Ron DeSantis's health care record.

Tampa Bay

St. Pete Dems put ‘Trump disciple’ Ron DeSantis on notice over health care

Local Democrats are rallying behind gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, while calling out his conservative opponent Ron DeSantis for siding with Republicans in efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Andrew Gillum and Chris King will look out for St. Pete,” St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said during a rally in front of a community health center on the Southside. “They will look out for everyday Floridians and not special interests or insurance companies. They are not creatures of Congress or disciples of Donald [Trump].”

House Republicans have tried 100 times to repeal, water down, de-authorize or defund former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, according to a website that tracks such measures. That site lists DeSantis as the sponsor of six proposals to roll back protections under the law.

About 50 residents and community activists showed up to condemn DeSantis’s health care voting record including a group of nurses supporting the Gillum/King ticket.

“I feel that the most important thing is the Republican repeal of Obamacare as it relates to pre-existing illnesses,” said registered nurse Anticus Jones. “An example is hypertension. It is easily treatable, but what happens is if it goes untreated or improperly treated, that person runs the risk of having a more complex illness that may exacerbate to something like diabetes or kidney failure and ultimately result in an untimely death for those patients.”

In a television ad released Tuesday supporting Gillum and other Democrats running for cabinet positions, Democrats blast DeSantis for implying that sick patients without health insurance should just go to the emergency room.

I would say though, and people who supported Obamacare used to this point a lot before it passed, there really is no lack of health care. If people really need it, if they show up to the emergency room, they do get care,” DeSantis said in a March 2017 interview by CNN’s Erin Burnett, according to a CNN transcript of that segment.

“We know what happens when people don’t have access to affordable health care. They go to the emergency room, which is the most expensive form of health care or worse they go without care and we all end up paying more on the back end,” Kriseman said.

The ad, which doesn’t directly mention Gillum but includes a disclaimer that his campaign approved the message, asks how DeSantis can “lead Florida when he leaves Floridians behind?”

“They’re called pre-existing conditions and everybody knows somebody who has one,” the ad says. “But in Congress, Ron DeSantis demanded that any new health law eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. He’d let insurance companies deny them coverage.”

Kristen King, the wife of Lieutenant Governor nominee Chris King, lamented during the St. Pete rally that before the Affordable Care Act, being pregnant was considered a pre-existing condition.

“I can say with total clarity that we will not be going back to the days when being a woman was considered a pre-existing condition,” King said.

It’s an issue that hits home for King. One of her daughters has severe food allergies that can cause anaphylaxes and is also considered a pre-existing condition.

The group of Gillum backers also support the Tallahassee Mayor because he would work to expand Medicaid in Florida. Under the Republican-controlled Legislature and Rick Scott administration, Florida declined federal funds to expand Medicaid to 800,000 Floridians.

While a Gillum administration would be hard-pressed to make that happen if the makeup of the Legislature doesn’t change after this November’s midterm election, Congressman Charlie Crist, a former Florida Governor, said Gillum would retain some authority to protect Floridians from bad health care laws by using his veto power, something which Crist said he has direct experience.

Crist also hopes Democrats will unseat Republicans in November to even the balance between the two parties. He nodded to Lindsay Cross, the Democrat running against Republican Jeff Brandes in the Florida Senate district covering St. Pete.

“The stakes could not be higher in this election,” Crist said. “To have someone who is running for Governor who doesn’t support covering people with pre-existing conditions, particularly in a state like Florida, is simply unconscionable.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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