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Jackson Docs To Lobby Legislators For Medicaid Expansion

MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) – As state lawmakers debate alternatives to expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act this week, they'll hear from a group of doctors and nurses from Jackson Health System on the need for the expansion.

A contingent of about 100 of Jackson's healthcare professionals flew to Tallahassee on Wednesday.

They plan to lobby legislators and talk about chronically-ill patients who fell through the cracks of the system because they couldn't afford health insurance.

"Affordable accessible healthcare for all would be a dream come true," said Martha Baker, with SEIU, which represents the hospital's healthcare employees.

Baker said a Medicaid expansion would help the four million Floridians who are currently uninsured – about a quarter of million of them are in Miami-Dade.

"You know they could be working, making less than $20,000 a year and they don't qualify for insurance under Medicaid and that's a shame," said Baker.

"These are your hardworking people who go to work every single day but unfortunately they don't make enough in order to afford the exorbitant amount of health care," said Dr. Denise Glass.

Glass said focusing on preventative care would save lives.

Jackson stands to get $35 million from Medicaid expansion, which would cover more than 5000 annual admissions of uninsured patients coming through the Jackson ER.

But their pleas may fall on deaf ears.

On Tuesday, Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean said was considering moving toward the House's alternate proposal

Bean has proposed one of two Senate alternatives to expanding Medicaid --- with both of the Senate proposals expected to be heard Wednesday in the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

Bean said he doesn't expect to make major changes Wednesday but that he could seek next week to move closer to a plan that was recently unveiled by House Speaker Will Weatherford.

The Bean and House proposals already share similarities, such as forgoing billions of dollars in federal money and targeting people at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level. But the House plan is more far-reaching than Bean's bill, as it would provide $2,000 subsidies to low-income people to help them buy health coverage. The other Senate proposal would use federal money to offer private health insurance to low-income people.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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