Florida’s visionary state insurance plan: ‘If we build this, they will come’

Florida  House  Republican efforts to avoid entangling the state in Obamacare Medicaid expansion are moving ahead, after getting a go-ahead Monday from a committee overseeing federal health reform’s impact on the Sunshine State.

The day started with Obamacare supporters staging a news conference in the state Capitol  — and a brief occupation of the House speaker’s office before getting an inconclusive, closed-door meeting with Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

It ended with the party-line vote to move a proposed state insurance plan to the House Appropriations Committee.

“The solution we offer is more than unique, it’s visionary,” said Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, vice chairman of the House Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“If we build this, they will come,” said committee Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Lutz.

Weatherford and Corcoran unveiled the new plan, “Florida Health Choices Plus,” on Thursday. It 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.

Under the plan, recipient households would be required to contribute $25 monthly premiums for each person enrolled. In return, the state would allot $2,000 annually for the recipient’s health care.

Able-bodied adults without children, it  was  clear, need not apply.

“If you’re a childless adult … We don’t feel that population is under our traditional safety net,” said Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, who presented the bill Monday.

Democrats called the House leadership’s resistance to Medicaid expansion a “missed opportunity” for the state to avail itself of $50 billion in federal funding to cover the first three years of the expanded program.

“For us to turn our backs on this is simply unfathomable,” said Rep. Perry Thurston, a Plantation Democrat and minority leader in the House. He accused Weatherford and other Republican leaders of being unwilling to listen to Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Senate proposals that incorporate federal funding, or the advice of other states that have agreed to federally funded Medicaid expansion.

But turning down money now is the only responsible way to avoid being left holding the bag with the federal money for Medicaid runs out, Republicans said.

“This program is totally, absolutely unsustainable,” said Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven. “If we don’t stop this gobbling up of our budget by Medicaid, we are doing a great disservice” to Florida.

Hudson agreed.

The plan is a “long-term vision of where we’re going, not the 30 pieces of silver at your fingertips,” he said.

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