Politics

Florida Senators Say No to State Run Health Care Exchange

By: Jim Turner | Posted: February 19, 2013 3:55 AM
Aaron Bean, David Simmons and Joe Negron

Senators Aaron Bean, David Simmons and Joe Negron

The committee reviewing how Florida should respond to the federal health-care law agreed Monday not to pursue setting up a state run exchange.

At least, not for the next year or two.

Meanwhile, a decision on the massive expansion of Medicaid’s managed care program in Florida is now tentatively set for March 4, the day before the 2013 regular session begins.

Sen. Joe Negron, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, said the pre-session directive depends upon updated long-term cost estimates on the impact to Florida from the expansion of Medicaid from state economists and Florida securing a long-awaited waiver on the program.

“I’d feel much better about contemplating that issue knowing that our waiver has been granted,” said Negron, R-Stuart.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration approved the first of the two waiver requests from Florida, to move long-term care patients into managed care programs.

With Medicaid eating nearly one-third of the state’s budget, the second waiver is considerably larger and potentially a key to Florida accepting the expansion of Medicaid as outlined in the Affordable Care Act.

The cost of the expansion to Florida has been widely estimated in past months.

A study by the Washington, D.C.-based Kaiser Commission estimated last November that adding 1.6 million people to a government-run insurance program for the poor would cost Florida about $8.9 billion over the next decade.

In January, the state Agency for Health Care Administration, which manages Florida's Medicaid program, put the cost about $3 billion in the same timeframe.

On Monday, members of the Senate Select Committee, both Republican and Democrats (reluctantly), formally pointed to the limited time to meet the fall 2013 deadline to set up an exchange, as well as still unanswered questions regarding the federal law in agreeing not to proceed with plans for a federal exchange this year.

“It just seems there are too many unanswered questions for the state to be jumping into this without letting the federal government show us the way for at least the first year,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.

“I have no desire to be first,” added Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

Committee members will formally write their collective opinion to Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who had asked their input on the potential to proceed with a state-run exchange.

The federal deadline for the state’s acceptance went quietly without a response from Florida on Friday, but Negron said he considers most deadlines “flexible” as Florida isn’t the only state the federal government is working with on the issue.

And while he would have been surprised if the committee agreed to move forward with the exchange, the state still could have had time.

“If we decided today we wanted to do a state exchange, we could do a state exchange,” Negron said.

“But I was hearing the state evidence as everybody else and there wasn’t a compelling case to do a state exchange.”

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last summer on the Affordable Care Act allowed states to opt out of the law's Medicaid expansion, leaving each state's decision to participate in the hands of the nation's governors and state leaders.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has been trying to work with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the state’s implementation of the law, already emphatically announced in December that Florida would have an exchange in place by Oct. 1, 2013.

Any formal action from the state Legislature must still go through legislative review process, including stops in the Banking and Insurance Committee, Appropriations Committee, and the Health Policy Committee, Negron said.

Each committee is headed by Select Committee members who voiced opposition to establishing the exchange on Monday -- Negron on Appropriations, Simmons on Banking and Insurance and Sen. Aaron Beach, R-Fernandina Beach, on Health Policy.

“I’m still looking for a valid reason why we’d ever want to start our own exchange, so right now I think we should let the federal government do it until it’s proven otherwise,” said Bean.

Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, said the committee should also begin to consider options that would allow the infrastructure for a state run exchange to proceed some years in the future.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said the minority caucus reluctantly agreed because there hasn’t been much activity from the state to create the exchange.



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

Comments (8)

John
11:36AM FEB 20TH 2013
I voted for Obama 6 times - lol. If the Feds are so smart, let's see them lead. As one clueless congressman said "We have to pass the bill to see what's in the bill". Florida does not need this Obamacare garbage.
BARBARA STEPHENS
9:03PM FEB 19TH 2013
WE MOST DEFINITELY DO NOT WANT OBAMA CARE IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA.
Frank
10:47PM FEB 19TH 2013
Too bad . . . you lost that battle three times over (i.e. in Congress, in the Supreme Court, and in the election - sorry, Newt Gingrich didn't quite cut it) . . . . and now your bright Legislators are going to let the feds set up the exchanges without their input . . . . deal with it, and thank your local Tea Party legislator . . .
Jeremy Engdahl-Johnson
7:57PM FEB 19TH 2013
Several healthcare features linked to public exchanges may impact how health insurance plans conduct business. http: //www. healthcaretownhall. com/?p= 6362
Jeremy Engdahl-Johnson
7:57PM FEB 19TH 2013
Several healthcare features linked to public exchanges may impact how health insurance plans conduct business. http: //www. healthcaretownhall. com/?p= 6362
RC
3:32PM FEB 19TH 2013
As a conservative activist from one of the most im,portant counties, I will tell you here and now, Governor Scott, Senators Negron, Thrasher and Gaetz, implementing the exchanges will cost Republicans the governor ship and possibly the house next cycle. The same is probable if you accept the expansion of Medicaid, for one, grow a spine, listen to Justice Roberts and just sy no to your Federal money dealer. Sem Simmons said it is compelling to move in this direction because it will be paid for with "opther peoples money". This is why the countyr is dying, you are stealing from the future generations to continue on a road that is truly unsustainable. You are all not stupid, stop pandering to people who will never vote for amateur Socialists. They want professionals only, the have the best in the Democrat party.
bakersacres57
1:01PM FEB 19TH 2013
So they say no, to fellow Floridians. But, they will some where find money for Corporation tax breaks.
Frank
12:31PM FEB 19TH 2013
Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt . . . . . . . . . CRASH!

Pathetic . . . . . . how to not govern while governing . . . .

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