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Healthy State tells the stories you need to know to stay well, with a special focus on Florida.We'll bring you the latest fitness trends, new research on preventing and treating disease, and information about how health policy impacts your pocketbook.We report on health using all the tools at our disposal -- video, audio, photos and text -- to bring these stories to life.Healthy State is a project of WUSF Public Media in Tampa and is heard on public radio stations throughout Florida. It also is available online at wusfnews.org.

House's Math Doesn't Add Up: Fasano

Mike Fasano at committee.jpg
Florida Current

State Rep. Mike Fasano of Pasco County went through the math of the House's health plan on Monday and showed how any family poor enough to qualify for it would be unable to afford it.

But then the House Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed it anyway, with Republicans all voting yes and Democrats no.

Elsewhere at the Capitol, protests of the House plan were being held. One group led a sit-in at the office of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, until he agreed to meet with them, according to the Associated Press.

The plan, called Florida Health Choices Plus, would theoretically cover up to 115,700 adults who have minor children or are disabled and have incomes up to the federal poverty level.

The federal poverty level this year is about $11,500 for one person, $15,500 for two people and $19,500 for a family of three. (For exact dollar amounts, see this chart.)

As Health News Florida has previously reported, the plan does not cover a majority of Florida's low-income uninsured, many of whom are either childless or middle-aged with no children under 18 still at home.

The plan would cost $237 million a year in state general-revenue funds, while turning down an average of over $5 billion a year in federal funds that would cover about 10 times as many people.

The plan was developed by Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, who chairs the House PPACA Committee. But it was presented by Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park.

He did not answer the math questions that Fasano raised; no one else tried, either. Fasano had tried to amend the bill to substitute Sen. Joe Negron's Healthy Florida plan, which would take federal funds to cover more than 1 million uninsured low-income Floridians.

Fasano, from New Port Richey, and Negron, from Stuart, are both Republicans, but they are not in agreement with the Republican House leaders. Neither are Senate President Don Gaetz nor Gov. Rick Scott, who are also Republicans.

Supporters of the House plan had three themes during the debate:

1) They don't want to accept any federal money because the federal government is not to be trusted to keep its word on the funds it's offering because it is "dysfunctional," as Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, put it.

2) They want to put people into the Florida Health Choices Plus marketplace as an experiment to see whether they can drive down medical costs. Because those enrolling would be so poor they would have to shop around and bargain for the best deals, which they could pay for out of a health savings account, health-care providers would have an incentive to lower their rates, the thinking goes. And if providers' rates went down, insurance costs would go down, supporters said.

The Health Choices marketplace, which Sen. Aaron Bean also supports as a vehicle for enrolling low-income people, was created by the Legislature five years ago. It's still getting off the ground; no one is yet enrolled.

3) Medicaid, the joint federal-state program for low-income people, is worse than no insurance at all, some said. The federal funds would come through an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and thus is not acceptable.

---Health News Florida is a service of WUSF Public Media. Contact Editor Carol Gentry at (desk) 813-974-8629 or (cell) 727-410-3266 or by e-mail at cgentry@wusf.org.

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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