‘Protect Our Care’ Democrats call for more accessible healthcare during Tampa rally

Congresspeople Charlie Crist and Kathy Castor, with State Representative Diane Hart, spoke at the event.

click to enlarge The 'Care Force One' bus parked near Gaslight Square in downtown Tampa, Florida on Aug. 26, 2021. - lpackard/Twitter
The 'Care Force One' bus parked near Gaslight Square in downtown Tampa, Florida on Aug. 26, 2021.

Yesterday Protect Our Care, a Democratic Party coalition that is pushing for more accessible healthcare, arrived in downtown Tampa on its “Care Force One” tour bus. The aim of the tour is to demonstrate the need for lowering Floridians’ health costs, expanded healthcare coverage, and reducing racial disparities in care.

Congressman Charlie Crist, Congresswoman Kathy Castor and State Representative Diane Hart spoke at the event, which sought to highlight how, “Democrats are leading the charge to advance American health care,” a press release sent to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay said. 

While 69% of Americans want Medicare for All, which would radically change healthcare accessibility in America, the politicians are instead focusing on the “Lower Cost, Better Care” bus tour to push for reforms and “hold Republicans accountable for continuing to reject measures to improve care and lower costs for Floridians.”

During the nationwide bus tour, Protect Our Care says they are fighting to ensure critical health care measures supported by President Biden remain in upcoming budget legislation.

These priorities include giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices for all Americans, getting more people covered by closing the Medicaid gap, expanding Medicare benefits to include hearing, dental, and vision, and further reducing health care premiums for millions of people who purchase coverage on their own. 

“The cost of prescription drugs frankly is out of control in our country; this budget framework we have passed gives us the tools to do something about it,” said Crist during the press conference. 

Crist spoke of a family in his district who had to pay $120 for 3 days worth of their daughters’ life-sustaining insulin. 

“That is unconscionable, and it is a state of affairs that needs to end,” Crist said. “For too long, Americans have been squeezed by high drug prices, while drug companies make record profits. By allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of drug prices, we can level the playing field, and we must do it.”

Crist also weighed in on what she’s seen over the past year and a half.

“The whole pandemic has illuminated the weaknesses in our healthcare system––issues we intend to now address and build back better,” said Castor. “I want all of our Tampa Bay area neighbors to know that they can count on me and Congressman Crist to fight for better care and lowering costs.” 

Castor said that she and Crist intend to fight for lower health care costs for all families, and that they are going to close the Medicaid gap, which keeps almost 1 million Floridians without consistent coverage and care.

“There are over 800,000 people in Florida who are trapped between Obamacare and nowhere,” stated State Representative Dianne Hart. That is an extremely big issue, and one that Congress is equipped to tackle with this budget framework. In the middle of this pandemic, which continues to disproportionately affect communities of color, we need to provide every opportunity for folks to have the access they need to good health care.”

Hart said that even if Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature refuse to take the issue head-on, as Florida remains one of 12 states that have held out on expanding Medicaid, she is hopeful that Congress can take on the issue. 

“Thank you to Congressman Crist, and Congresswoman Castor, for all of the incredible work you are doing to ensure that we have the health care access and affordability we need here in Tampa Bay, in Florida, and in our country,” Hart said.

Karen Clay, chair of the Democratic Disability Caucus of Florida, shared her support, and shared a personal story.

“Expanding Medicaid is perhaps the single greatest thing we can do to guarantee better healthcare for individuals with disabilities, and for folks generally who fall into the Medicaid gap,” Clay said.

She pointed out that the health care system in the U.S. is ranked as one of the best in the free world, but accessing that care is another matter altogether. Her son Mike, who passed away last year, was born with a severe form of spinal muscular atrophy. That condition put both of them on a journey through the state and country’s healthcare system for almost 40 years. They had health insurance provided through employment that resulted in lifetime caps, denials, exclusion due to pre-existing conditions, and even job loss because of my son’s underlying medical condition. 

“It is an absolute disgrace that  Governor DeSantis and Republicans in the Legislature have refused to take action to provide more access to healthcare to so many who need it,” Clay said.

Clay says that if Medicaid expansion expands for Florida, “It would be a literal lifesaver for so many families in our state.”

Next week,  “Care Force One” will head to Denver, Colorado.

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