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If Florida Health Choices is a gift, Richard Corcoran will return it

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Health Policy Committee Chairman and Vice Chairman Aaron Bean and Eleanor Sobel are working together on a Senate Medicaid expansion plan.

But the two are at odds over how it should be administered, with Bean championing a little-known program called Florida Health Choices and Sobel throwing her weight behind the better known Florida Healthy Kids Corp, which administered the popular state children’s health insurance program.

Sobel withdrew an amendment that would have carved the Florida Health Choices out of the mix in the development of the new statewide Florida Health Insurance Exchange — or FHIX– program. The FHIX program would be the virtual marketplace for employer insurance, Medicaid managed-care plans and 800,000 new people covered under the Medicaid expansion under the proposed committee bill the Senate agreed to introduce earlier this week.

Sobel is concerned that Florida Health Choices has limited experience. Additionally, the Florida Health Choices president and chief executive officer testified that she would have to hire between one and two dozen employees at Florida Health Choices to upload the various health plans onto the Florida Health Choices platform.

Sobel said after the meeting she said the amendment was withdrawn because of technical difficulties but that she will reintroduce a similar amendment later.

Bean says he wants the Florida Health Choices for its operating platform that can handle the demands of having all the Medicaid managed-care plans and a variety of commercial products. He notes that the  Florida Health Choices platform had no glitches when it started offering Obamacare-approved health plans (minus the qualifying subsidies). The site had 4,800 visitors between the beginning of January and Feb. 15 when enrollment in Obamacare ended.

Florida Health Choices was established in 2008 under the direction of then House Speaker Marco Rubio and championed by then House member Bean, who helped direct $2.4 million in state funding to the program and also once served as the chairman of the Florida Health Choices board of directors.

Sobel says she thinks Bean is championing Florida Health Choices because it was created with the help of Richard Corcoran, who was Rubio’s chief of staff.

“I think it’s something for the House. It was passed under Marco Rubio and Corcoran was chief of staff there. They feel confident about it. That’s what I think it’s about. It just doesn’t have the proven track record.”

Corcoran said he is not easily swayed.

“There’s nothing near and dear to me,” Corcoran said. “I like good public policy and I hope we can get to that point. And when a member out of nicety put my mom’s name in a bill, I had to strip it out and bounce it back because I refused to have my mother’s name (in it).”

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