On Tuesday, July 26, the Alachua County Labor Coalition celebrated the birthdays of Medicare and Medicaid at the Mennonite Church by holding a panel of local state and federal candidates. Chad Hood, a doctor from Our local VA hospital, moderated the panel, and questioned the candidates about ways they might expand coverage of these celebrated programs if elected.
Marihelen Wheeler, running for Florida House in District 21, and Rod Smith, for Florida Senate of District 8, both advocated for expansion of Medicaid.
Marihelen also emphasized the need for low-cost health clinics throughout the region to help those in the coverage gap. We do not know when the Republican legislators in Tallahassee will agree to accept the $5.5 billion dollars a year that the federal government offers to Florida to cover these under-served folks. Rod Smith expressed hope that he could negotiate with the resisting state legislators to bring them around to accept the much needed funds in our state.
When questioned about Medicare, Ken McGurn, running for US House Seat, District 3, indicated he would reach across the aisle to get Republican support for a gradual expansion. Tom Wells, running for the same seat as an Independent, favored a more radical change to single payer not unlike the views promoted by former presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders.
Other local candidates like Tim Rogers, a Republican also running for Keith Perry's former seat, Robert Hutchinson for County Commission, and Eileen Roy for School Board were among the 75 people who attended. Scott Darius of Florida Chain shared the efforts of his group to get health care to those in the Medicaid coverage gap throughout the state.
The largely progressive crowd there enjoyed a lively camaraderie while partaking of pizza and homemade snacks at the beginning and birthday cake for Medicare at the end. I think our caring health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid, felt seen and celebrated.