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Florida Health Insurance Industry: Get Obamacare Right

November 27, 2012 - 6:00pm

Florida needs to have its own health-care exchanges, but it shouldnt rush into that portion of the federal Affordable Care Act. That's the message from business and health insurance providers in the Sunshine State.

In other words, how Gov. Rick Scott and the state Legislature have approached the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Democratic Party's narrowly-backed health care overhaul is supported by panelists at the Florida Chamber of Commerce's sixth annual Insurance Summit. The event got under way Wednesday at Disneys BoardWalk Inn.

The Florida Legislature will begin reviewing the health-care law next week and the governors office continues to wait for a reply from the federal government to his request to discuss the law and the health-care exchanges that the state has yet to agree to establish.

Florida Blue Senior Vice President Jon Urbanek said the federal timelines make it difficult for Florida to avoid falling into the federal exchange program. But he said because of concerns expressed by business leaders, the state needs to do it the right way.

That means dont rush.

Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson said Floridas decision to delay implementation -- because it first was busy challenging the law better known as Obamacare -- allows the state to see how the act plays out first in blue states that have been more receptive to the law.

I think time is our friend, said Wilson, pointing to state legislative and executive leadership.

I think smart people will figure out not 'how do we never do this,' but how does Florida get it right."

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has said the concern remains providing the cheapest alternative for Floridians and so far the federal government hasnt provided enough information to determine if a state or federal exchange will offer lower costs.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has added that 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.

Meanwhile, Scott, a former health care executive, continues to wait for his requested sit-down with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss some of his own ideas on the law.

Urbanek and Shands HealthCare CEO Tim Goldfarb said they see business opportunities with the law.

Goldfarb, who also supports Florida taking a cautious approach to the law it fought to the nations top court, noted that Florida already has a dearth of medical professionals, and they will be overtaxed by the increase in patients -- approximately 4 million Floridians currently dont have health-care coverage.But that isnt a bad thing because the confusion in the marketplace creates openings for the ambitious, he said.

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

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