Short Takes On News & Events

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Ready To Negotiate State Exchange

By Phil Galewitz

November 16th, 2012, 2:53 PM

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that he’s open to building a state-based health insurance exchange under the health care law — but only if he can find a way to pay for it that doesn’t increase health costs or state taxes.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr)

Scott, the former hospital chain CEO who has been one of the most vocal Republican critics of the law, said he also would be open to expanding Medicaid as called for in the law — but the federal government first has to approve his request to require virtually all beneficiaries to get coverage under a private managed care plan. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has yet to rule on the request submitted in 2011.

Scott, who was in Washington, D.C., to talk to the conservative Federalist Society, said he wants to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “to see if we can find common ground.”

“I want to sit down and see if there is a way to do an exchange that reduced the cost of health care and improve access for the quality of health care, then I would be interested in doing it,” he said.

He sent Seblius a letter today on the matter.

Under the federal health overhaul, states have the option starting in 2014 to expand Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.  In Florida, which has the nation’s third highest rate of residents without coverage, more than 1.5 million people would gain insurance if the state expanded eligibility.

The federal government would pay all of the costs for the first three years, although that would eventually be reduced to 90 percent. Republicans have repeatedly said that Florida cannot afford those costs.

Responding to Republican governors’ concerns, Sebelius Thursday gave states an extra month –until Dec. 14– to decide whether to build a state exchange, which is an online market where individuals and small businesses can shop for coverage and find out if they qualify for federal subsidies or coverage under Medicaid. If states don’t act, the federal government will operate the exchange and set the rules that determine which health plans can participate and what benefits will be available to consumers.

Scott said he’s worried a state exchange would lead to higher health costs or force his state to raise taxes.  Florida has been building its own online health insurance exchange, authorized by the state legislature in 2008, and it is set to open next year. That exchange, called Florida Health Choices, will initially serve small businesses and will not offer  subsidies to defray the cost of coverage or require that a certain package of benefits be covered.  The Florida exchange received a onetime $1.5 million state grant, funded largely through a 2.5 percent tax on premiums sold in the exchange, according to Executive Director Rose Naff. Some state lawmakers want to make that exchange comply with the health law.

Many of the 17 states that have agreed to build state-based exchanges are expected to use a similar premium tax that insurers would pass on to policyholders. Naff said states also can fund their exchanges from state dollars, fees charged to insurance agents, or  advertising on the exchange Web site.

Scott said a state exchange would cost at least $90 million a year based on what he said Illinois determined. He added that  Florida is a larger state. “My concern is the exchange is not going to reduce costs,” he said.

Before President Barack Obama’s re-election last week, Scott was adamant that the state would do nothing to implement the health law that was not required. Florida led the legal fight among 27 states to get the law overturned. But in June, the Supreme Court upheld most of the law including the requirement that most citizens have health insurance.

5 Responses to “Florida Gov. Rick Scott Ready To Negotiate State Exchange”

  1. larry says:

    Tea Party darling Rick Scott is a one term governor and he knows it! He is scared! There are a whole bunch of the Neanderthal governors all across America that are seeing the handwriting on the wall and are scrambling to redeem themselves after the outrageous behavior they demonstrated in the 2012 election. Voter ID and voter suppression is the key reason governors like Scott and Corbett and Kasich and many others will not be re-elected in 2014. In spite of their efforts to quickly move to a more moderate position, they have made an indelible impression on the electorate that will never be erased. The caused the long voter lines and the hours of waiting in line to vote. They openly suppressed voting in their respective states. That will always be remembered!

  2. Helen Jacobi says:

    No, follow the rest of the 19 states and refuse to set up this exchange.
    Florida can’t even run elections properly – how do you expect the state to run any exchanges. Don’t give Obama his wish in this. We were not for Obamacare in the first place and would like it removed.
    Please listen to the people. You are our governor not Obamas.

  3. ken says:

    Hey Helen, has anyone told you that the election is over and Obama won? He won because the majority of voters agree with his policies. That includes Obamacare. I get the sense that you live in a backwards state that has a petition floating around to secede from the United States. Please, send me that petition so I can add my name to help you leave as quickly as possible! You tea party types got beat down on November 6th. Voters don’t agree with the tea party anger and rage any longer. It simply doesn’t work! Voters have sent a resounding message that it isn’t about “Us versus Them” any longer. Voters have told us that we all need each other and we are all in this together. Red and yellow, black and white! Together! Obama won Helen, get over it!

  4. Vlad says:

    Helen,
    Had you read an earlier article you would know why your Governor is even considering negotiating for this Medicaid expansion. That’s because his argument that in the long run, the state could not affiord it. But after he read the scholarly report that showed him that the state would be actually saving more money in other programs at the same time, he realized he was wrong. Maybe he is thinking what is best for the state?
    I do disagree with his argument to insist on a private managed healthcare program. My mother, who lived in NYC, was forced to pick one and it was horrible. They are more concerned with their expenses than with the care an extremely disabled citizen needs. The hire many unqualified and inept workers, which is not who you want taking care of you parents and grandparents.

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