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House unveils its low-cost answer to Medicaid expansion

by John Kennedy | April 11th, 2013

Weeks after Republican legislative leaders defied Gov. Rick Scott and refused to expand Medicaid, the House rolled out a health insurance plan Thursday that parallels a longshot proposal already introduced in the Senate.

The House would build on Florida Health Choices, a five-year-old insurance marketplace designed for individuals and small businesses.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, has advanced a similar approach in the Senate, where it has drawn little support compared with a more ambitious proposal from Senate budget chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

With just over three weeks remaining before the Legislature’s May 3 adjournment, the battle lines are clear. While Scott and Negron have expressed support for drawing billions of federal dollars to finance health coverage for an additional 1 million Floridians, the House proposal shuns federal money.

“The Florida House has developed a plan that will fit the needs of Florida, not the requirements of Washington,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.  “Our plan increases our commitment to a strong safety net and ensures Floridians are not on the hook for billions that we currently do not have.”

The House’s Florida Health Choices Plus would cover an additional 115,000 uninsured Floridians at a cost of $237 million annually to state taxpayers. Florida has close to 4 million residents without health coverage, contributing to hospitals losing $2.8 billion in charity care last year.

Democrats, hospitals and health-care organizations have joined advocates for low-income Floridians in pressing Republican leaders to embrace the Medicaid expansion allowed states under the Affordable Care Act.

Florida stands to draw $51 billion in federal aid at a cost to taxpayers of $3.5 billion over the next decade — with the first three years of the expansion fully paid for by the federal government.

Negron’s proposal in the Senate, if approved by the full Legislature and signed into law by Scott, is seen as likely winning approval from the Obama administration. That would clear the way for it to be financed as an alternative to the Medicaid expansion.

Following the plan’s release, House Democrats and Scott found rare symmetry.

Both sides gave a nod to the effort by House Republicans — but said it fell short.

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale called it “bare-bones health coverage.”

“Though personally, at a glance, I am not enthralled by the proposal, I recognize that it is at least a minimal attempt toward achieving a legislative compromise on the important topic of health coverage for Floridians,” Thurston said.

Scott weighed-in supporting the Senate plan.

“The House’s plan will cost Florida taxpayers on top of what they are already taxed under the president’s new health care law,” Scott said. “This would be a double-hit to state taxpayers.”

He added, “The Senate’s plan will provide health care services to thousands of uninsured Floridians while the program is 100 percent federally funded. As it stands today, the Senate’s plan is in line with what I said I would support because it protects both state taxpayers and the uninsured in our state.”

Much of the proposal released Thursday by the House was devoted to making a case against expanding Medicaid. The Health Choices Plus plan would cost low-income Floridians $25-a-month, letting them choose from a variety of insurance options supplemented by $2,000 annually in taxpayer contributions.

Those taking part in the program would be expected to be employed, unless they could not work because of a disability.

Health care advocates earlier questioned the similar Bean proposal in the Senate — saying it’s lack of significant financing would blunt the kind of coverage Floridians could obtain.



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7 Responses to “House unveils its low-cost answer to Medicaid expansion”

  1. No More Rick Scott Says:

    Republican governor Rick Scott’s push to privatize Medicaid in Florida is highly controversial—not least because the health care business Scott handed over to his wife when he took office could reap a major profit if the legislation becomes law.

    Scott and Florida Republicans are currently trying to enact a sweeping Medicaid reform bill that would give HMOs and other private health care companies unprecedented control over the government health care program for the poor. Among the companies that stand to benefit from the bill is Solantic, a chain of urgent-care clinics aimed at providing emergency services to walk-in customers. The Florida governor founded Solantic in 2001, only a few years after he resigned as the CEO of hospital giant Columbia/HCA amid a massive Medicare fraud scandal. In January, according to the Palm Beach Post, he transferred his $62 million stake in Solantic to his wife, Ann Scott, a homemaker involved in various charitable organizations.

  2. OBIWAN Says:

    GOV Rick Scott sold Solantic – that deal closed end of 2011…

    GOV Rick Scott signed that Medicare Managed CAre reform two years ago…

    The only reason our GOV was willing to consider our Legislative option on ‘free to Florida for the 3 years of Fed paid’ was that got our ‘waivers’ finally approved by HHS. They held Florida hostage illegally for two years – as a cost savings lost of over $4 Billion!

    Some folks don’t get out much, don’t read real news, can’t google anything…
    … others call them PB Post subscribers!

  3. health care advocate Says:

    The Florida House leadership seems to live in 1913, a time when medical knowledge was such that a doctor could do only simple things like setting a broken bone or simple surgery, and as a result, being able to see a doctor was not a life or death thing as it is now. And because cost was not that outrageous, charity was often a solution.

    In 2013 doctors can do wonders, and being able to get medical care can be the difference between living and dying, as I have experienced as a leukemia patient. But as a result their services – and some life saving medications – are so expensive that insurance is necessary for the average person to afford it.

    Many lower paying jobs offer no, or wildly insufficient insurance to cover serious illness. Nevertheless, the House leadership seems hell bent to prevent that a single, working adult would get health insurance. What are they thinking?

    They think that ‘able-bodied adults’ do not need health care (actually they are living in fantasy land where these people would get sufficient health care coverage via their job). The use of that old fashioned term ‘able-bodied adult’, excluding everyone who has a chronic disease but is not disabled, reveals all of their simplistic thinking.

    Apparently, the House leadership thinks that single, working, low income people do not need health care. Cruel, irresponsible behavior, in my opinion, and that is a kind way to put it. Regardless of Scott’s motives, his position in this case would lead to better outcomes for those in dire need of healthcare.

  4. PB Wolf Says:

    Republicans hate the poor and will do anything they can to hurt them. They also hate The Black Guy in Chief and will do ANYTHING to make him look bad. It’s their prime directive. Florida, Dump Gov. Thief and the cold-as-ice Repugs in Tallahassee.

  5. business ideas Says:

    When someone writes an paragraph he/she retains the plan of a user in his/her mind that how a user
    can be aware of it. So that’s why this article is perfect. Thanks!

  6. Searcher1 Says:

    This is a SICK, SAD JOKE!!! I want REAL health coverage, like residents of OTHER STATES that don’t have GOP IDEOLOGUES running them.

  7. Kevin Says:

    I have never allowed myself to be without health insurance since I had my first real job in 1980. I would have liked to take the money I spent on my family’s health insurance and new buy new computers and flat screen TV’s, or save it up and take a nice vacation every year or any number of things. But I don’t dare do that because it would be irresponsible. I can empathize with people who suddenly find themselves with a debilitating illness and get dropped from their crappy plans because the sleazy insurance company found an excuse to deny coverage. I don’t feel sorry for people who can afford coverage but choose to gamble and loose when they end up with a hospital bill they are unable to pay. Obama care strives to mandate responsibility on these risk takers who almost always end up costing tax payers and those who do purchase comprehensive health plans billions of dollars each year. I think until recently the laws governing health care make it easy to say yeah, ill take that risk why do I need insurance when I’m healthy and never go and see a doctor when the only perceived downside is the possibility of having a bill on the books that’s so large you could never actually pay. If hospitals had the right to deny care including the right to let you die unless payment was guaranteed not many people would take that risk. Since hospitals are legally mandated to treat you first and then try to collect the money later many people are empowered to be irresponsible. The solution is simple. Mandate everyone purchase coverage at reasonable rates like Obama Care does, allow hospitals to turn away people who cannot guarantee payment or enact universal single payer health care. It’s only fair.

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