Insurance Commish Kevin McCarty tells blue-ribbon advisory panel it’s not a “social welfare advisory board”

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An insurance industry-dominated panel on Tuesday rejected a proposal to expand Medicaid to about 800,000 Floridians who don’t qualify for insurance subsidies because they don’t make enough money.

Chaired by Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, the Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board preliminarily approved a number of recommendations to submit to the Florida Legislature to consider in the upcoming 2015 session.

Insurance agent and board member W. Adam Castoff and Florida CHAIN representative and board member Leah Barber-Heinz both recommended that the group include a recommendation to expand  Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The move was opposed by board member and Agency for Health Care Administration deputy secretary, Division of Health Quality Assurance, Molly McKinstry  as well as McCarty, who both expressed concerns that the group should not advance policy recommendations that would impact the state budget.

“The original intent of the group was to get as many people covered as possible,” Castoff said to McCarty, who replied, “It’s the  health insurance advisory board, not the social welfare advisory board.”

McCarty works at the pleasure of the Financial Services Commission, which is the governor and Cabinet. Gov. Rick Scott has stated his support for Medicaid expansion but his support has been tepid and he has not lobbied the Legislature on its behalf. Cabinet members Pam Bondi and Adam Putnam oppose Medicaid expansion.

In addition to rejecting Medicaid expansion the committee withheld approval of a number of other proposals, stating that they needed more information before making a decision. To that end, Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board staff director Michelle Newell will seek out background information on the deferred issues  and the board will hold a teleconference call before the start of the 2015 session to finalize its proposals.

Issues that the committee took a pass on include: eliminating a state requirement that small group employers offer “dependent” coverage to adult children up to age 30; establishing 30 hours per week, not 25, as the number of required hours for  coverage under the federal law; and banning non-contracted physicians from “balancing billing” patients who are part of a PPO, or preferred provider organization.

There already is a balance billing prohibition for HMOs.

Seth Phelps, with Florida Blue, presented the company’s recommendations, most of which focused on streamlining administration by eliminating some paperwork requirements and aligning federal and state law. The group did reject a proposal by the insurance company to eliminate a requirement in state law that an individual’s name and premium be included on the member’s contract.