Bipartisan biz group calls for Medicaid expansion for 800K additional Floridians

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A bipartisan group of business leaders on Wednesday unveiled a plan that would extend coverage to an additional 800,000 Floridians by tapping into the statewide Medicaid managed care system and charging the newly insured monthly premiums.

The proposal would provide coverage to all people who aren’t eligible for the current Medicaid program and with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. it would use federal Medicaid dollars and would operate under an 1115 Demonstration Waiver. Eventually it would cover about 1 million people.

Premiums will be charged on a sliding scale basis depending on circumstances  with childless adults paying the most–$300 annually–and parents with young children and young adults aged 19 and 20 paying the least–$36 annually.

And in a departure from the federal health care law–commonly called Obamacare–coverage won’t be effective until after premiums have been paid.

The plan has the support of heavy hitters like Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Hospital Association and Florida United Business Association.

AIF President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Feeney called the plan a good starting point for 2015 legislative discussions and one that should be considered given the tax burden employers face for not providing coverage to their employees.

“Florida has an opportunity to show the nation that health care can be delivered based on a free market framework and on conservative principles,” Feeney, the former House Speaker said in a release.

A Healthy Florida Works and its members have been investing time despite warnings from legislative leadership that Medicaid expansions are off the table.

A Healthy Florida Works Board member and Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce member Jamie Harden is disheartened by what he hears in Tallahassee when it comes to health care. “It feels like what’s happening there is people just don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “I’m just afraid it’s going to get killed because nobody wants to look at it.”

Harden owns Creative Sign Designs which employs 140 people. Harden paid about  $50,000 more for his employees health care this year so he could avoid  costly penalties under the federal law. While the Florida Legislature is normally sympathetic to issues that impact businesses it’s different with health care, he said.

“Health care gets thrown in with light rail,” he said adding “but this is a situation where, silence …  isn’t going to (help). It just feels like somehow, someone needs to do something.”

During the second year of operations managed care plans not currently under contract with the state may submit a “rate” it would charge the state. The Agency for Health Care Administration will notify the plans whether the bids are accepted by March 15, 2016.

There are financial penalties for any plan that withdraws from the program or reduce their enrollment.

To participate in the program the newly insured must show they are involved in “JET” activities–or job training, job placement, and education opportunities for a specific trade.