AIF braces business leaders for new legislative session

In preparation for the upcoming legislative session, Associated Industries of Florida held a briefing for business leaders on what to expect.

Brewster Bevis, the lobbying firm’s senior vice president of state and federal affairs, said the No. 1 issue facing legislators is health care and Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to expand Medicaid.

“This is a huge new piece of the puzzle,” Bevis said.

Florida has the nation’s third highest rate of uninsured, said Tamela Purdue, AIF’s general counsel. The Medicaid expansion could cover an additional 900,000 people.

While Medicaid costs Florida about $21 billion per year – about 30 percent of the state budget — federal funding covers half those costs. Of the 3 million people covered, nearly half are children.

Purdue said the Legislature will be looking for ways to reduce costs, assessing the way patients access care and services, putting more focus on prevention and continuing to combat fraud.

Since the briefing was held on his home turf, Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Oakland Park, was invited to share his thoughts on session priorities. Smith said the House and Senate “view things in different ways,” and although he didn’t elaborate on how the two bodies would approach it, he said Medicaid expansion is a prime example.

“We can’t afford not to go in this direction,” Smith said, adding that hospitals cannot survive without compensation for indigent care, which they would receive under the proposal.

All seemed to agree that ethics and election reform measures were top priorities for the 2013 session. The Senate has proposed an ethics bill, and the House has offered an election reform measure.

Smith said property insurance and the catastrophic aid fund could also be a major focus of debate.

“It will be tough to pass a bill that will increase rates,” Smith said. “We’re looking for ideas, looking for anything that will help.”

Eastern Seaboard and Gulf states are working together to minimize the risk and create a regional compact, he said.

The legislative session begins Tuesday.


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