Despite Softer Words on Affordable Care Act, Concerns Remain Over Costs

By: Jim Turner | Posted: November 23, 2012 3:55 AM

Affordable Care Act

Credit: Shutterstock - Andy Dean Photography

Some of the staunchest tea party backers are not pleased with Florida leaders for offering them what they view as an olive branch to talk about the implementation of the federally mandated Affordable Care Act.

But officials say they are a long way from agreeing to set up the health insurance exchanges outlined under the law also known as Obamacare.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said the concern remains providing the cheapest alternative for Floridians and so far the federal government hasn’t provided enough information to determine if a state or federal exchange will offer lower costs.

“Whatever we do, whether it’s a federal exchange, whether it’s a partnership exchange or a state exchange, it should be an exchange that maximizes consumer choice and maximizes competition,” Weatherford said.

“We don’t know which one does that yet because we haven’t got enough information from the federal government. Once the federal government gives us some more rules and regs, based on this bill, we will be better able to make a determination.”

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said any health care talks would hinge on the federal government replying to the 2011 state law that requires Medicaid patients in Florida to be shifted into private HMOs.

“I think the conversations have to be linked,” Gaetz said. “Some states are looking at taking certain groups of potential new Medicaid beneficiaries ahead of other groups.”

"There are at least a couple of states that are thinking of taking children first, mothers with children, and then taking single adults who are employed later in the process," Gaetz said. "We don't know whether that’s going to be allowed."

Gaetz wouldn’t call the settlement of the Medicaid and Affordable Care Act issues a potential “quid pro quo,” the state accepting ACA if the feds approve the Florida Medicaid plans. But he said the issues do cross when the subject is patient care.

“If you want these folks who are going to get the new Medicaid cards to actually get something more than a card, but get care, help us out with reformatting the way we do Medicaid because we think managed care has a way of promoting more access,” Gaetz said. “It’s more front-loaded with primary care and back-loaded with institutionalization.”

The federal government has extended the deadline to Dec. 14 for states to announce they would begin to set up state-run exchanges.

Noting the state wouldn’t meet the prior deadline of Nov. 16, Gov. Rick Scott has asked for a sit-down with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss some of his own ideas.

But as of Tuesday morning, Scott, a former health care executive, had yet to hear back from the federal official, according to his spokeswoman Jackie Schutz.

For some opponents of the Affordable Care Act, there should be no acceptance of the health care law that was narrowly backed by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative organization backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, on Monday took exception with Scott, Gaetz and Weatherford, accusing them of working against the state's interests by making receptive comments on Obamacare.

"AFP is extremely disappointed in leaders in Florida suggesting that the Sunshine State should create a health insurance exchange,” stated Slade O’Brien, AFP Florida's state director, in a release. “An exchange will increase insurance premiums on consumers and taxes on hard-working families. Florida’s best intentions will be masked by the federal government’s onerous requirements.”

O’Brien added that governors in other states, including South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, have announced they wouldn’t create an exchange.

“Numerous governors across the country are joining together to send a strong message to Washington to reject these flawed exchanges,” O’Brien continued.

“Weatherford, Gaetz, and Scott’s statements send the exact wrong signal. Florida should not agree to be the de-facto administrator of the federal government’s rules, regulations and mandates. In light of the recent election, it is clearly now up to the states to get our fiscal house in order. Succumbing to Washington largesse and regulation is the wrong path for Florida.”

Nicole Kaeding, AFP state policy manager, added that the federal government is buying off the states to submit.

“Federal funds are flowing freely to buy state compliance, but state budgets will take the hit in two short years. Florida’s leaders are showing a real lack of resolve exchanging health care freedom for these temporary funds.” Kaeding stated in the release.

“Creating an exchange puts state taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars every year. Florida should reject these bloated bureaucracies.”

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (6)

3:48PM NOV 23RD 2012
After this past election, the Teabangers are just about as relevant to politics as the 8-track tape player is to music!

Time for everyone to boycott tea-flavored Kool-Aid.
Jeff Brower
10:13AM NOV 23RD 2012
"Once the federal government gives us some more rules and regs, based on this bill, we will be better able to make a determination.”

That is the most obscene statement I have ever read. Hey Weatherford and Gaetz, how about PROTECTING your States from this unconstitutional encroachment of the Federal behemoth! Nullify this bill now or go home and stop harming our State!
3:51PM NOV 23RD 2012
You could always try Somalia.
Andrew Nappi
10:05AM NOV 23RD 2012
Don Gaetz is an avowed federal supremacist. Gaetz is quite fond of saying "Lee surrendered to Grant, not the other way around and that settled the question of federal supremacy." Wrong. Neither Gaetz or Weatherford has the courage to stand up to federal tyranny under any circumstance. Whatever the Florida standard bearers for "conservatism" have become, it sure isn't constitutionally limited government. What a disappointment. If anyone needed additional proof of the cowardice of the legislatures' so called conservatives, this could not be any more illustrative. Gaetz and Weatherford have all the courage and heart of a grilled cheese sandwich.
by Christina Sandefur, Goldwater Institute

As last week’s so-called “deadline” for states to decide whether or not to establish a “health insurance exchange” came and went, Arizonans were given good news: Governor Jan Brewer will not stick Arizona taxpayers with the bill for implementing the new federal health insurance mandates – for now. The Governor has decided to delay her decision as she continues to study Arizona’s options.

Early on, some state policymakers were misled into thinking that setting up a state exchange would give them flexibility from federal control. There’s also been discussion of urgent “deadlines” states must meet to “comply” with the federal law.

Federal bureaucrats, ill equipped to execute a comprehensive takeover of the nation’s health insurance industry, have been hoping governors and legislatures would buy these stories.

What the feds don’t want states to know is that federal law does not require states to establish exchanges. In fact, there’s no rush to make a decision – states may opt in at any time. If states choose not to set up an exchange, the federal government will have to create and fund one on its own.

Fortunately, governors across the country are finally learning the truth about insurance exchanges.

They’re learning that state exchanges are state-funded, but not state-run. That exchanges leave no room for state flexibility but come with price tags of over $60 million per year. And in states with Health Care Freedom Acts, state exchanges are illegal.

That’s why last week, while the feds intensified their efforts to get states on board, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma joined the growing assembly of states—now at 20—that have chosen not to establish state-funded exchanges. In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services announcing his decision, Wisconsin’s Governor Walker wrote, “No matter which option is chosen, Wisconsin taxpayers will not have meaningful control over the health care policies and services sold to Wisconsin residents.”

Arizona should follow the leads of these states and decline to establish a state-funded exchange. At the very least, with so much uncertainty surrounding insurance exchanges, Arizona should not rush to be Washington’s guinea pig.

Learn more:

Goldwater Institute: Key Points on Health Insurance Exchanges
3:53PM NOV 23RD 2012
You do realize the South lost the Civil War, right ... and that today's idiotic Teabangers and Libertarian anarchists probably consider Godlwater to be a RINO, right?
12:28PM NOV 25TH 2012
Yes, and Andrew can't even get the deadline correct . . . it's Dec. 14th.

Besides, he also just usually touts his false premise that States can nullify -invalidate - federal laws like the Affordable Health Care law . . . . . Supreme Court rejection of this unique theory started in 1809 and continues until today . . . . Mr. Nappi's apparently still trying to live in an America of 1798 . . . . . just ignore his strange wacky beliefs and ravings . . . .

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