With House,Senate deadlocked on health care, a ‘hybrid’ is bornby John Kennedy | April 16th, 2013
With the House and Senate divided over whether to accept federal dollars to expand health insurance for poor Floridians, Senate budget chief Joe Negron said Tuesday that he is open to finding a middle ground.
Negron, R-Stuart, is scheduled to shepherd a proposal through a Senate budget subcommittee Wednesday that relies on federal money to reposition the Florida Healthy Kids program to accept $51 billion in federal aid over the next decade.
Negron wants to create a Healthy Florida program to cover the potential 1 million uninsured adults and children who could be eligible for coverage under the Medicaid expansion allowed states by the federal Affordable Care Act.
The House and Senate have both rejected the Medicaid expansion earlier sought by Gov. Rick Scott, but the governor, Senate leaders, and most health care advocates have since signed onto the Negron proposal.
The House, however, is rejecting the federal money. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and his likely successor, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, say the promise of a steady stream of federal dollars is unreliable.
Instead, House leaders are advancing a proposal that would cover only 115,000 low-income parents, children and disabled at a cost to state taxpayers of $237 million-a-year.
A similar Senate proposal by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, also is expected to be reviewed by the Senate budget panel Wednesday.
“My goal is for people to have health insurance, with them paying part of these premiums,” Negron said. “I would prefer a premium assistance program along the lines of the Senate plan. But this process requires people of good will to enter into principled agreements with the other side.”
Negron said that some sort of “hybrid” proposal — incorporating portions of his plan and the House proposal — is the only approach that will fly this session.
“I think for any plan to succeed this session, it would have to have elements of the House and Senate plans in it,” Negron said.
Although federal Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told states last December not to expect full federal funding with a partial expansion of Medicaid coverage, Negron said he felt federal officials will be ready to deal.
“I would think that the federal government would want the citizens of Florida to have private health insurance rather than show up at emergency rooms when it’s too late, frequently,” Negron said.
While the House plan would cover 115,000 and Negron’s approach would bring 1 million Floridians insurance coverage, the senator said it was still unknown how many the “hybrid” will insure.
Almost 4 million Floridians currently have no health insurance. Where will the hybrid land?
“Somewhere in between. It depends on where you draw the line,” Negron said.