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Crist Would Push Lawmakers To Expand Health Care Coverage

John O'Connor

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist says if he’s elected, he wants a special session to expand a state-run health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

Crist says Florida could cover an additional one million people by expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Republican legislative leaders rejected the idea the last two years. Charlie Crist says expanding health insurance coverage is too important to give up now.

In a meeting with the Miami Herald editorial board, Crist said he thinks he can convince lawmakers to reconsider.

“Can it be done?" Crist asked, noting it might mean pushing the Governor's legal authority. "Maybe. And and it’s certainly worth trying.”

The federal government will cover the entire cost of expanding Medicaid until 2017. The federal share will decrease, eventually covering 90 percent of the expansion by 2020.

And if lawmakers are unwilling? Crist said he’ll sweet-talk lawmakers first, but he’d break out vinegar if needed.

He asked for a prop in a reference to the Governor’s veto power: “Can I borrow your pen for a second? For those that can not be successful in approaching, if I win, I’ll have a pen again. So there’s a good approach and a little tough-love approach, too.”

He said Florida could add 100,000 jobs by reviving the state’s space industry, building a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Florida and developing the state’s alternative-energy industry.

Crist also said the state should do more to help counties and cities cope with sea-level rise. He wants to encourage the development and use of alternative energy sources and help local government pay the cost of sea-level rise, such as Miami Beach's renovation of West Avenue and Alton Road.

Crist said Cuba could be a boost to Florida’s economy if the economic embargo is lifted, and that expanding trade with the island nation makes sense.

“If there’s going to be a business relationship established between the United States and Cuba and the embargo is eventually lifted," he said, "then probably redevelopment of the island will be a focus. Roads, other infrastructure, housing – you name it. The natural launching pad for all of that strikes me as South Florida.”

Crist canceled a planned trip to Cuba so he could remain on the campaign trail.

Crist faces former state Sen. Nan Rich in the Aug. 26 primary. The winner will challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott in November.