A third panel approved the Senate's proposed alternative to Medicaid expansion.
But things got dicey Wednesday when the Senate Appropriations Committee discussed the bill (SB 7044).
As Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, walked his colleagues through the proposal, several powerful senators became engaged in intense side conversations. The discussions grew so large that the committee went into an impromptu recess.
Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, later explained that some members had expressed concerns because the plan would put some beneficiaries into Medicaid Managed Care plans temporarily until the state creates a new private health insurance marketplace.
"The options before us were to temporarily pass the bill while we worked through it and got people involved, or try to draft changes on the fly," Lee said.
Ultimately, Senate leaders decided to move forward with the plan before them, which would expand access to health care insurance to nearly one million poor Floridians. Beneficiaries would be required to pay small monthly premiums, as well as meet a work requirement.
Rules Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, called the proposal a "major step forward toward solving a significant problem that is facing the state of the Florida and the nation."
Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rene Garcia, R-Miami, urged his fellow colleagues to "let Washington know that we are serious about taking care of our residents in the state of Florida."
"Let's not get caught up in some of the politics associated with this," he said.
The meeting wasn’t entirely a love fest.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, noted the shortage of primary-care physicians in Florida, and said the state healthcare system "does not have the capacity to treat a million new patients."
"I've got to believe you are setting yourself up for failure," Hays said.
But he, too, voted in favor of the plan.
The controversial bill is now headed to the Senate Floor.
Bean acknowledged that there was still "a long way to go." The House has said it won't consider the proposal, and it would need to win approval from the federal government.
Still, Bean was optimistic. "By sticking together, we can do a lot of great things for Florida and its citizens," he said.