Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)
The Senate filed an amended version of its health care expansion plan Tuesday, a “compromise” it hopes will help bridge a philosophical gap with the House.
The Senate’s expansion plan – known as the Florida Health Insurance Exchange – was originally envisioned as a three phase plan. The first phase was shifting uninsured residents to the state’s managed care system, which is Florida’s version of the Medicaid system overseen by private insurers.
Uninsured patients would remain on those plans while the state sought federal approval for the underlying expansion plan. If green-lighted, the uninsured would be moved over to the state-run health care exchanges by Jan. 1, 2016.
The amendments, filed by Senate Health Policy Committee Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, removes the Medicaid piece. Under the new plan, patients would go straight to the state-run exchanges on January 1.
“By removing Phase 1 enrollment in Medicaid Managed Care, the amendment streamlines implementation while facilitating a smooth transition for enrollees who can move directly to the FHIX,” wrote Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, in a memo to his members explaining the changes.
Removing the Medicaid piece from the plan could help placate opponents, including the GOP-dominated House and Gov. Rick Scott, that has expressed concern that the plan would expand the federally-run system, which it has hammered all session as “flawed.”
The amendment also adds an exemption to the bill’s work requirement, which some say will provide a hurdle to final approval. The feds have never approved an expansion plan that required enrollees to work or attend school in order to receive coverage.
“The bill allows an exception to the work requirement for individuals who are disabled or caregivers of a person with disabilities,” Gardiner explained.
When fully enacted, the Senate plan would cover an estimated 800,000 people and draw down nearly $50 billion over eight years. Over that same timeframe, the state would be on the hook for $5 billion, a price tag that has also been a point of contention for House Republicans.
House Budget Chief Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has said the House is likely to vote on a Senate-crafted expansion plan during the three week special session scheduled to begin June 1.
Disagreement over health care expansion under Obamacare, in part, forced regular session off the rails and forced lawmakers to return to Tallahassee for a special session to write the state budget.
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