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Florida Matters Preview: Attorney General Debate

Bay News 9

Florida's candidates for Attorney General met for their first and only debate earlier this month in the studios of Bay News 9.

We will bring you the highlights of the debate, co-moderated by the Tampa Bay Times, this week on Florida Matters on Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 26  at 7:30 a.m. on WUSF 89.7 FM.

The federal health law, also known as “Obamacare,” is among the topics the candidates they debated. A recent Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/UF Bob Graham Center poll shows more than half of likely voters either want some changes or a complete repeal of the law.

  Moderator and Bay News 9 anchor Al Ruechel asked Libertarian Bill Wohlsifer, Democrat  George Sheldon and incumbent Republican Pam Bondi about the role of the attorney general when it comes to the Affordable Care Act in Florida.

BILL WOHLSIFER: I have the unique opportunity to sit with two sides of that topic. The Attorney General has led the fight against the Affordable Care Act for the first two years of her term, unsuccessfully for reasons beyond this short discussion, whereas Mr. Sheldon was with the [U.S.] Department of [Health and] Human Services, who participated in the rollout of HealthCare.gov that also had its failures. And also Mr. Sheldon mentioned about the Medicaid doughnut hole we have, the lack of expansion. I think that we have to face the fact that the Affordable Care Act is the law … it is the law, the attorney general has to implement the law and we also have to reach out to that gap of the poor people who are working and falling between coverage.

AL RUECHEL: Ms. Bondi?

PAM BONDI: I do agree that we have to implement the law, now that it is law. But one point that we did win on, and I’m very proud of challenging that, is that the federal government cannot force us to purchase a product simply by being alive, and that’s a huge win on a much broader level. You cannot force someone to purchase a product. The [rollout] was a disaster. My opponent ran, basically his announcement was saying he was running because I challenged Obamacare, and he helped draft it. This was sold to the American people on the basis of lies – I’m not saying you lied – but the law was sold on the basis of a lie, and even the Tampa Bay Times called it the “Lie of the Year.” People’s premiums have doubled, people are losing insurance, businesses are hurting, people’s hours are being cut back at work, and this is a tremendous disaster for our state, but I will follow the law.

RUECHEL: Mr. Sheldon, did you help draft it?

GEORGE SHELDON: Well, I appreciate that she’s giving me credit for drafting the Affordable Care Act. It was actually drafted two years before I got there. It passed then. There’s no question that we need to make some adjustments in the Affordable Care Act. I think everybody recognizes that. We did that with Medicare Part D that passed under Ronald Reagan. Democrats opposed it, but they knew it needed some changes. As you talk to people, they don’t want to go back to the days when preexisting conditions were not covered. They don’t want to go back to the days when there were lifetime limits. They don’t want to go back to the days when health insurance didn’t cover basic screenings like mammograms and others. They don’t want to return to those days. Medicaid expansion, one of the things that they fought so hard against, to say we’re not covering 1.1 million people in this state, that’s fundamentally wrong, with 100 percent federal money and the point I would also point out, it’s not federal money. It’s Florida’s money. And where did it go? It went to states like California and New York.

Hear more highlights from the debate this week on Florida Matters on Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 26  at 7:30 a.m. on WUSF 89.7 FM.

Lottie Watts was our Florida Matters producer from 2012 to 2016. She also covers health and health policy for WUSF's Health News Florida .