"I know it’s not perfect and I know it’s not as big or luxurious as some may want it, but the way we designed this plan we covered the basics first," said Bean, who noted that over time lawmakers could add additional money, increase benefits or cover more people.
Bean’s proposal passed along party lines Wednesday with much less enthusiasm than Negron’s plan, and several Democrats criticized it for falling far short of offering any comprehensive solution.
“As we see all the different proposals, I think this is truly the most responsible use of our taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah.
"It seems on its face to be cheaper, but that’s because it doesn’t do much of anything. I liken the bill to buying four flat tires and expecting the car to drive. I don’t think this bill drives us to where we need to be," said Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville.
Negron, R-Stuart, said he’s optimistic the House and Senate can take the best of both proposals. He suggested a hybrid bill that would allow recipients to choose between a health insurance voucher or to take that same amount of money and put it toward a basic health insurance plan. If lawmakers did decide to take federal money, it would allow them to put "substantially" more than the proposed $2,000 a year toward each health plan, he said.
House Republicans are mulling a third proposal that would cover about 130,000 people and be paid for without federal money. That plan, shepherded by Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, would cost the state as much as $266 million annually.
Negron said Wednesday he is willing to work with House Republicans on a compromise that would contain elements of each plan.
The Obama administration will pay 100 percent of the federal health program for the first three years and 90 percent after that, but Republicans are concerned the federal government will back out of the promise, leaving the state on the hook.
"The issue on the federal funds is an important issue to our friends in the House and it’s an important issue to me...Rather than having it’s all or nothing, let’s acknowledge the fact that there are some good uses for federal funds and I believe using some federal funds for [the House] plan would be a potential negotiation resolution."
Gov. Rick Scott, a fierce critic at one time of the federal healthcare overhaul, continued to insist that state lawmakers "will do the right thing" now that the overhaul was the "law of the land."
"What I’ve said all along is I will support a bill that while the federal government pays 100 percent we increase access to those who can’t afford it," Scott said Wednesday. "...Right now what the Senate is proposing fits in with what I’ve been talking about."
Herald/Times Tallahassee reporter Tia Mitchell contributed to this report.