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FL Lawmakers Urged to Act on Medicaid, Exchange

Holli Ploog.jpg

An expert on health insurance exchanges told Florida lawmakers  today they made a mistake in not building a state-based insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, instead leaving it to the federal government.

But it’s not too late to try for a state-federal partnership, and Florida should go for it, said Holli Ploog, vice president of CGI Government Markets.  Her company is contracting with the federal government and six states to build health exchanges, which consumers will be able to use beginning in October to buy coverage for 2014.

Rose Naff, another panelist at the Health Care Affordability Summit, agreed. “The feds are providing 100 percent funding (through 2016) for the underlying platform,” which is expensive to build,  she said.  The more say-so the state has in the exchange, she said,  the more variety it can offer in products that will be available.

And if Florida doesn’t like being in a partnership with the federal government, it can opt out of it after a year without penalty, Naff said.

Most of the panelists on Friday morning also urged action on Medicaid expansion, when Rep. Richard Corcoran, the moderator, asked what the Legislature should do.

“You have to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves,” said Jonathan C. Anderson, an executive for Florida  Blue. “So if that means Medicaid expansion, there’s a  lot of money there we could certainly use.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has offered states extra Medicaid match money if they expand the program for low-income people to cover more of the uninsured. Gov. Rick Scott has opposed the idea in the past, but after the election he said he would keep an open mind.

Naff agreed that in order to have a competitive insurance system and control costs, everyone has to be covered.  Otherwise, she said, those who have insurance pay more and more to cover the cost of care for those who can’t pay.

For a good account of Thursday’s action at the summit, sponsored by the Associated Industries Foundation, see coverage by The Tampa Bay Times.  

To follow the summit by Twitter, go to #HCAsummit.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.After serving two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, Gentry worked for a number of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times), the Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel. She was a Kaiser Foundation Media Fellow in 1994-95 and earned an Master's in Public Administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996. She directed a journalism fellowship program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for four years.Gentry created Health News Florida, an independent non-profit health journalism publication, in 2006, and served as editor until September, 2014, when she became a special correspondent. She and Health News Florida joined WUSF in 2012.
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