Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist wants to tackle Medicaid expansion in FL to help seniors

By: - January 5, 2022 2:57 pm

A senior living facility in Broward County. Credit: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Getty Images

Medicaid expansion in Florida is important for senior communities across the state and would help cover costs associated with senior services and home renovations, says U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.

Crist, a former Republican governor of Florida, a Democrat in Congress and now a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2022, vowed on Wednesday to act immediately on issues such as tackling Medicaid expansion and using funds from the health care program to support Florida’s elderly residents, if elected governor.

As part of his campaign for unseating Gov. Ron DeSantis, Crist’s proposal for seniors include additional dollars from Medicaid expansion to fully fund services such as Meals on Wheels for seniors and home care services.

However, expanding Medicaid for low-income residents to gain health coverage has faced pushback in the Republican-led Florida Legislature. The initiative did gain partial support, as Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls and members of the Legislature supported expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers and their babies.

Crist hopes to topple DeSantis and fight for full expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program. During a press conference Wednesday, Crist said he’d veto any state budget that doesn’t include the expansion, if elected. Only 12 states have not expanded Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“I think what’s very important to stress here is how important it is that these 800,000 to a million of our fellow Floridians are not getting health care again today because the governor and this Legislature will not accept Medicaid expansion,” Crist said.

During the virtual press conference, Crist unveiled his “Action Plan for Florida’s Seniors” that would address a variety of issues impacting the elderly, such as lowering prescription drug costs, building safer communities, supporting seniors with disabilities and workers at long-term care and nursing homes.

According to Crist’s plan, “As governor, Charlie will allow Florida’s Medicaid program to pay for home renovations like wheelchair ramps or lifts, grab bars, wider doorways, and no-step bathing that will keep low-income seniors safe and prevent unnecessary hospital and nursing home stays. This will make homes safer and save taxpayer dollars.”

“Our campaign knows that our seniors deserve better,” Crist said during the press conference. “To be treated with respect and dignity.”

He continued: “And from my time fighting for Floridians in Tallahassee, to the halls of Congress in Washington D.C, I have remained committed to championing affordable health care, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, supporting care workers, making sure votes can age and vote safely and comfortably at home, preserving social security and Medicare, and expanding opportunities for seniors to remain active in our communities.”

He said the cost of Medicaid expansion wouldn’t be much to Florida, as “most of the expense would be” covered by the federal government.

Crist also stressed the importance of nursing home staff in Florida getting vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect patients and workers at the facilities.

“I think people who work there, having vaccines is something that’s incredibly important,” he said. “I have had two vaccines and a booster. I hope that most Floridians are doing that…it’s important to get vaccinated, it’s important to wear a mask when your indoors. These things are common sense.”

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.