House Speaker Will Weatherford’s poignant tale of his family being helped by a state “safety net” after his 2-year-old brother died of cancer underwent another change Wednesday.
Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he has now learned that his family’s bills were covered by the Medically Needy program, which helps families dealing with catastrophic illnesses who would not ordinarily qualify for Medicaid because their incomes are too high.
Weatherford now opposes expanding Medicaid to 138 percent of the poverty level, a position at odds with fellow Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who supports expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Analysts say expanding Medicaid could bring another 1 million lower-income Floridians into the program. Like Weatherford’s family at the time of his brother’s death, most of those 1 million have no insurance.
Weatherford had declined Tuesday to detail how his family was helped, after citing their experience to a joint session of the Legislature in declaring his support for a “strong safety net for Florida” even as he reaffirmed opposition to the Medicaid expansion.
A Weatherford staffer later told The Palm Beach Post that Weatherford, after checking with his father, believed medical professionals, basically, had written-off the family’s costs.
The Florida Hospital Association is supporting Medicaid expansion to reduce the $2.8 billion in uncompensated, charity care hospitals were forced to swallow last year.
Further review by his family showed Wednesday that it was Medically Needy that helped, Weatherford said. Medically Needy is a federal/state program that is optional for the state and has been frequently targeted for elimination by lawmakers — but has endured.
“It is not surprising that recollections would be cloudy surrounding a time of great sorrow and difficulty,” Weatherford said in a statement released Wednesday.
“Now that the safety net that benefitted my family has been clearly identified, I trust that the debate can return to the important question of Medicaid expansion and its impact on the economic and personal freedom of Floridians,” he said.