Florida Senate offers House and Gov. Scott new healthcare options


Senate President Andy Gardiner announced this morning that the Senate was changing its proposal to offer coverage to 800,000 Floridians. The House and Senate have been at odds over coverage and the dispute cut the regular session short and did not resolve the most important legislation facing the state at this time.

Top Florida senators are offering up a revamped health care coverage plan in an effort to end a stalemate with Republican House leaders and Gov. Rick Scott.

The Florida Legislature meets in Special Session from Monday to June 20 to create a budget for state fiscal year 2015-16 as well as address a number of health care-related issues.

Gardiner said that the Senate is making changes based on criticisms aimed at the initial Senate plan.

“This legislation represents a continued effort by the Senate to advance solutions and build consensus around a fiscally responsible expansion of health care coverage,” Senate President Andy Gardiner said in the news release. “We look forward to the work ahead and to furthering this important discussion in the days leading up to an during our upcoming special session.

The Senate’s new proposal would push back the start of the coverage until January. Those seeking coverage would not enroll in the state’s traditional Medicaid program. The Florida Senate will alter its health care access proposal to allow those who would qualify under an expanded Medicaid program to purchase their health plans from the federal health exchange instead of requiring the newly insured to enroll in a Medicaid HMO.

In a news release, Senate Health Policy Committee Chairman Sen. Aaron Bean said he heard from many senators and House members who were concerned with a provision in the initial bill that would have required the freshly insured to enroll in a Medicaid managed care plan while Florida awaits approval from the federal government on its proposal, officially called FHIX — or the Florida Health Insurance Exchange.

Bean said the change addresses the potential loss of an insurance subsidy for some people on the health insurance exchange if the state does expand Medicaid coverage.

House leaders and Gov. Scott have opposed Medicaid expansion.

In addition to changing the requirement that they enroll in a Medicaid HMO after initial expansion the Senate also has changed the work requirements. The Senate FHIX plan is modeled after a plan championed by the business group A Healthy Florida Works.

Spokesperson for the group, Jennifer Fennell  in a press release, notes that the changes “demonstrat(e) a continued commitment to finding a solution to Florida’s health care crisis.

 “A Healthy Florida Works “fully supports the Senate’s FHIX compromise,” Fennell said in the release. “A fiscally-responsible approach that covers more people is the right thing to do for Florida businesses and families.”

A Healthy Florida Works, a bipartisan coalition of business leaders, chambers of commerce, statewide business organizations and concerned individuals, developed a framework for using available federal funds to extend health care coverage to more Floridians.

Back on Wednesday, March 4, AHFW member Kim Williams, president and CEO of Marpan Supply and Recycling, presented AHFW’s proposed bill during the Senate Health Policy Committee workshop.

During the workshop, members discussed ideas with experts and constituents from across the state. The Senate passed the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange (FHIX) on April 2, 2015, which includes all of the key components found in the A Healthy Florida Works proposal and provides low-income Floridians access to health care coverage.

So it seems that the Senate would have the backing of both the healthcare and business community with this new compromise.

Quotes in the story came from press releases and the Associated Press

Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.