U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Kathy Castor railed on Republican lawmakers Thursday as they promoted President Joe Biden’s health care measures as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour.
Crist, who is running for Governor in 2022, slammed Gov. Ron DeSantis at the press conference for letting Florida become the “epicenter of the pandemic,” as well as his refusal to expand Medicaid. Florida is one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid, an action that would extend coverage to people who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level, or nearly 1 million Floridians.
“It’s unconscionable, it cannot stand,” Crist said about DeSantis’ dismissal of Medicaid expansion. “Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, our state has emerged as the epicenter of this pandemic. We need to make sure we have leadership that has a heart and that cares about the people and cares about their health care and getting what they deserve.”
The pair also spoke in support of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, particularly on the health care aspect of the plan, which seeks to lower costs of prescriptions as well as health care in general. Crist described the plan as including “so many steps forward for our country.”
“The cost of prescription drugs, frankly, is out of control in our country … and this is going to do something about it,” Crist said. “For too long, Americans have been squeezed by high cost of drugs.”
Castor emphasized that the pandemic has shown the shortcomings in the health care system.
“Look at what’s happening right now across this area across the state of Florida. We are in a public health emergency, and God bless everyone working in our hospitals,” Castor said. “The whole pandemic has illuminated the weaknesses in our health care system.”
“I’m working with Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia to lead that effort in the Congress on the new initiative that will close the Medicaid gap and provide consistent coverage to almost a million Floridians,” Castor added. “We intend to make the tax cuts permanent for hard working families, and that includes the tax credits that make health care all the more affordable.”
The Congress members were also joined by state Rep. Dianne Hart, a Democrat who represents East Tampa. Hart also took on Republican state leaders, criticizing them for dismissing Medicaid expansion, which she pointed out disproportionately affects people of color.
“While Republicans like our Governor and our two Senators refuse to treat these issues as important as they are, as partisan food fights,” Hart said. “Closing that gap would be the single most important step we can take to reduce racial disparities in health care and coverage in this country.”
“Everything we’ve talked about today is not just an abstract, it will have real consequences and bring real change to the folks that live in my district and across our state,” Hart added. “If we can fight to make sure that prescription drug costs are actually affordable and families don’t have to choose between rent and life saving medicines, that will make all the difference in the world.”
The news conference in Tampa was the second of the day in Florida, with U.S. Rep. Val Demings speaking with fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto at an Orlando meeting of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour.