Nikki Fried talks Medicaid expansion, budget in disability issues town hall
Nikki Fried. Image via Colin Hackley.

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Fried said Medicaid expansion would be a 'number one priority' if she is elected.

Gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried fielded questions about issues facing Floridians with disabilities while lobbing verbal bombs at the state’s current budget proposals during a virtual town hall Monday.

Fried said she backs expanding Medicaid eligibility in the state during the town hall hosted by Florida Voices for Health (FVH), an advocacy organization working to improve health care outcomes for all Floridians. She also said she would support increasing state dollars going to iBudget, the program that controls the state’s Medicaid waiver system for people with developmental disabilities.

The Affordable Care Act allows Medicaid eligibility to be extended to people up to age 64 with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. However, a 2012 Supreme Court ruling found that states could not be forced to expand their Medicaid programs.

Florida has not adopted the expansion.

Fried said Medicaid expansion would be a “No. 1 priority” if she is elected. However, she said it would take a significant public outreach effort in the state’s red areas to win over Republican legislators.

“I am not afraid of a challenge. I’m not afraid of hard work,” Fried said. “It is going to take rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.”

During the town hall, FVH leadership discussed issues facing the state’s iBudget program. More than 22,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are on a waiting list for Medicaid services despite lawmakers allocating $95 million in additional funding last year to fight the backlog.

JJ Holmes, a Seminole County student with cerebral palsy who has been waiting on the iBudget waitlist for 15 years, asked Fried using his communication device about what she thought about current iBudget funding levels and the waiting list.

Fried said the fact that the waitlist is so long is a failure of the state and more funding is needed.

“It is disgusting that we are 49th in the nation when it comes to funding,” she said. “The fact that we are not doing it is such a disgrace to our state, and shows where the priorities are not right now in a Republican Legislature.”

She said she would veto budgets as Governor if funding for programs like iBudget are not increased.

“I think that one of the biggest hindrances that the Republicans are fearing is the fact that I’m going to veto an entire budget and send them back to work until they start living up to the promises that our government is supposed to give to the people of our state,” Fried said.

Fried also attacked current budget proposals for including $22 million for planes for elected officials and money for a new “policing force for our elections.” She said Republicans have not prioritized the needs of Floridians since they took control of the Legislature decades ago.

“We buy planes, we buy office buildings and we buy land. We buy all these other things and pet projects for legislators, not taking care of the fundamentals of what government is supposed to do,” she said.

Tristan Wood

Tristan Wood graduated from the University of Florida in 2021 with a degree in Journalism. A South Florida native, he has a passion for political and accountability reporting. He previously reported for Fresh Take Florida, a news service that covers the Florida Legislature and state political stories operating out of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications. You can reach Tristan at [email protected], or on Twitter @TristanDWood



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