Despite Softer Words on Affordable Care Act, Concerns Remain Over Costs
Around the State
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 email@example.com or at (772) 215-9889.