Gov. Rick Scott signing a bill to speed the creation of a science and technology-geared university on Friday were the rejections of the University of Florida’s plan to shift employees out of the state health system and a last-minute effort in the Legislature to bulk up the state’s hurricane catastrophe fund.Overshadowed by
Among four bills vetoed Friday, Scott expressed concerns about the university’s ‘GatorCare’ effort to place more than 10,000 employees and their families on the Shands Healthcare insurance plan and disagreed with how the catastrophe fund effort was added to legislation aimed at workers’ compensation.
Scott wrote in a letter accompanying the veto of House Bill 5009 that he had concerns about the potential fiscal impact to the state health insurance system and that further analysis is needed of the plan that would have placed UF employees under the care of a third-party provider.
A report by Buck Consultants for the university estimated savings -- based upon “best-guess” premium rates for employees and dependents -- of up to $13.4 million a year. But Scott noted that a state Department of Management Services analysis projected “only minimal savings.”
“I commend the University of Florida for seeking methods to be cost-efficient,” Scott wrote. “However, I must balance the financial interests of the university against the financial interests of the other universities and state agencies participating in the State Employee Health Insurance Program. After a review of the Buck report and this legislation, I have concerns that the financial impacts on the State Employee Health Insurance Trust Fund have not been analyzed fully.”
The university noted its disappointment in an email, but said it respected the governor’s decision.
"We believe our proposed health and wellness program would have improved the health of our employees while being more cost-effective,” the university wrote.
Scott also encouraged the university, and others in the state system, to work with the Department of Management Services and the Office of Policy and Budget not to give up on the idea:
“I encourage the University of Florida, as well as any other state university that may be interested in implementing a separate health insurance plan, to work with the Department of Management Services and the Office of Policy and Budget to determine whether separate plans are cost-efficient and, if so, to develop a fair and equitable transition plan that fully addresses the impacts on the universities, the state agencies, the employees, and Florida’s taxpayers.”
As for HB 5505, Scott wrote that he supported the bill, but opposed how the effort by Senate Budget Committee Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, to shave down the catastrophe fund -- using a banking industry-supported insurance tax program -- was added to the bill through the budget conference talks between the House and Senate.
“Although I support a measure contained in the bill that implements an efficiency improvement within the Department of Financial Services' Division of Workers' Compensation, there is a provision to which I am opposed,” Scott wrote.
“The bill creates the Florida Insurance Premium Tax Prepayment Program, which allows for the issuance of and sale of up to $1.5 billion in tax certificates, with the goal of providing a funding mechanism for the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.
“While the stated purpose of this program is to provide an additional funding mechanism for the Cat Fund, the language was not fully vetted through the committee process and emerged late in the budget conference.”
Catastrophe Fund Executive Director Jack Nicholson had noted there were questions about the program’s potential impact on the state’s credit rating if the fund was unable, due to the heavy financial toll of a massive storm, to pay back the cost of the tax credits.
The program was to offer discounts to the insurers and financial institutions that pay their state premium taxes early. The state would have used general revenue funds to cover the tax credits, with the money eventually having to be repaid to the state from the catastrophe fund.
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.