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Health insurance advisory panel starts work on legislative priorities

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

The Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board is considering whether to ask the Legislature to address the “family glitch” — a regulatory quirk that can leave dependents of small business employees unable to afford health insurance.

The problem, said board member Louisa McQueeney, is that small group plans sometimes don’t cover employees’ family members. Depending on how much the family earns, the dependents might not qualify for Affordable Care Act premium subsidies.

“They can go to the marketplace, but without the subsidy,” she said. And without a subsidy, they might not be able to afford coverage. And without coverage, they face hefty federal penalties.

“I see a great hardship out there,” said McQueeney, health insurance navigator project manager for Florida Community Health Action Information Network. “Not only do they not have insurance, they have to pay a penalty.”

The board got started on its legislative agenda during a meeting Wednesday in Tallahassee. On hand were two new members: Robert Muszynski, vice president for finance for the Orlando Regional Realtor Association; and Ken Stevenson, vice president for employee benefits at Tallahassee’s Earl Bacon Agency.

Members also approved a health insurance market report. See here for details.

The panel advises state leaders about health insurance matters and includes representatives of the industry, business interests, and state agencies. Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier chaired the gathering.

The panel wasn’t sure whether the state holds the authority to require employers to change their insurance plans to resolve the problem — or whether a legislative response was necessary or feasible. Altmaier asked staff members to look into the situation.

The panel also took under advisement suggestions to make pre-tax health spending through health savings accounts more easily available to middle and upper-income earners on ACA marketplace plans; and to make insurance deductibles portable when policyholders shift insurers.

Additionally, they agreed to study improving coverage for sufferers of “maple syrup urine” disease, a genetic malady. State law mandates coverage through age 24 — a level established years ago when patients frequently died young.

Now they can live much longer, but have trouble paying for the expensive drugs that help keep them alive, McQueeney said.

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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