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Thousands Sign Petitions Urging Governor Crist and Legislative Leaders to Save Healthcare Coverage for 40,000 Floridians
Date:4/23/2008

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., April 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida's elected leaders received a message from thousands of Floridians today -- more than 16,500 petitions urging Governor Charlie Crist and legislative leaders not to eliminate two vital Medicaid programs that serve 40,000 of the state's most vulnerable citizens.

Driven by ambulance and then carried into the state Capitol by gurney, the petitions ask Governor Crist, Senate President Ken Pruitt, and House Speaker Marco Rubio to save the Medically Needy and Medicaid/Aged and Disabled programs by tapping alternative sources of revenue. Petition signers are imploring Governor Crist and legislative leaders to:

-- Approve the use of the Lawton Chiles Endowment fund;

-- Access the Budget Stabilization fund or Rainy Day fund; or

-- Authorize an additional $1 per pack fee on cigarettes.

There has been some discussion lately on the use of the Chiles Endowment or the Rainy Day funds to relieve the budget cuts. Most recently, Governor Crist has stated publicly that the Rainy Day fund should be used.

Hoping to close a nearly $4 billion state budget shortfall, legislators are considering slashing $1.2 billion in health and human services programs this year -- including about $500 million in Medicaid reimbursement cuts to hospitals. That includes cutting nearly $355 million in state and federal funding for the hospital coverage of the Medically Needy and Medicaid/Aged and Disabled programs.

"Cuts to these programs reflect a shortsighted solution to the budget deficit," said Mark O'Bryant, president and CEO of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, and vice chair of the Florida Hospital Association Board of Trustees. "With these 16,500 petitions, legislators are seeing just the first wave of Floridians who feel great concern over budget cuts that could prove life-threatening to many of our most vulnerable citizens."

The Florida Hospital Association generated the petitions i
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SOURCE Florida Hospital Association; Safety Net Hospital Allianceof
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