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Local lawmaker Mark Pafford to head health advocacy group


House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach was named Thursday chief executive officer of Florida CHAIN, the statewide health advocacy organization.

Pafford said he will start the $85,000-a-year job Nov. 1. Entering his final year in the Legislature, Pafford has worked as CEO of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for The Everglades since May last year.

“I get a good feeling genuinely trying to help people,” Pafford said. “Improving access to health care and providing good quality health care is important.”

CHAIN was among a broad coalition of health organizations which supported the Florida Senate’s push last year for a privatized form of Medicaid expansion, a proposal opposed by Gov. Rick Scott and the state House.

“At Florida CHAIN, we have been fortunate to have great leaders and a steady hand at the wheel through turbulent times for health care advocates in Florida,” said Florida CHAIN Board of Directors Chair Christine Fisher.

The standoff over Medicaid forced the Legislature into a June special session to settle on a state budget for the 2015-16 year.

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, is a hospital executive who argued that expanding health coverage was important to help hospitals offset a reduction in federal funding, but couldn’t get Scott or the House to go along.

House Democrats backed the Senate proposal. And while another round of cuts in federal money for state hospitals looms next year, lawmakers and advocates say they don’t expect Medicaid expansion to be on the table again.

Pafford was elected to the Legislature in 2008 and rose to the post of Democratic leader following last fall’s elections. He is term-limited and plans to leave the Legislature next year.

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