Fla. House leaders unveil plan to counter Obamacare expansion

TALLAHASSEE – Declaring “the ships have been burnt” on talk of Florida’s taking federal money in for Medicaid expansion, House Speaker Will Weatherford and state Rep. Richard Corcoran on Thursday unveiled what they called a more efficient, market-oriented approach to health care for the poor.

The plan, expected to be filed as a House bill later today, is aimed primarily at uninsured families with children living on income under the federal poverty level ($23,550 for a family of four), according to figures released by the House Majority’s Office. Most of those families are already eligible, but the new would cover about 100,000 more.

The plan places a big emphasis on “personal responsibility,” with recipient households required to contribute $25 monthly premiums for each person enrolled – “skin in the game,” as Weatherford put it. In return, the state would allot $2,000 annually for the recipient’s health care.

The total cost to the state would be about $240 million if all eligible families signed on, according to the figures.

The plan is basically an expansion of the Health Choices marketplace idea established when
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was speaker of the Florida House, Corcoran said during a conference call with reporters Thursday morning.

Florida's Will Weatherford media
photo credit: Tampa Bay Times

“You’ll be able to get almost any kind of health-care coverage,” he said. “It’s more dynamic than just saying ‘no’ to Medicaid expansion in Florida.”

How the plan will fare more than halfway through the session remains to be seen.

Weatherford said Corcoran has been in meetings with state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, who has sponsored a Senate Medicaid-expansion plan that includes using federal money, and Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, who has sponsored a separate plan.

Corcoran, the Lutz Republican in line for the speakership, said he has been meeting with Gov. Rick Scott on the issue. Scott wants to accept federal money for a limited time for the program, noting that it’s in the state’s interest to get its share of tax dollars residents have already paid.

Weatherford, who has repeatedly denounced the idea of using federal funding for what he calls an “unsustainable” Medicaid expansion, said he hopes negotiations will work out once it becomes clear the House is not willing to go along with the federal expansion plan.

The days left before the Legislature adjourns May 13 is an “eternity” in politics, Weatherford said.

“We hope they will look at this as a wonderful alternative,” he said. “We’re hopeful.”

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