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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.

Hope Fades for Health Coverage Deal

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LaCrai Mitchell
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StateImpact Florida

It appears increasingly likely that the legislative session will end on Friday without agreement to accept more than $50 billion in federal funds to cover an estimated 1.1 million uninsured Floridians. 

If Florida doesn't take the money, many of the poorest adults in the state -- those who have incomes under $12,000 a year -- won't be offered coverage on Jan. 1, when the expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act goes into effect.

That will have an odd result: Someone with an income of $11,000 would not qualify for subsidized coverage, while those who earn two or three times as much would. 

That’s because people under the federal poverty level were not included in the exchange subsidies when the Affordable Care Act was written. That’s because the ACA had placed them into Medicaid. But when the Supreme Court made Medicaid expansion for the poorest adults optional, so in some states they are being left out altogether. Increasingly, it looks as though one of those states will be Florida.

To be sure, the end of the session would not necessarily close the book on the issue. Gov. Rick Scott could call a special session later in the year to address the issue.

But even then, no deal could be reached without a significant change in the mood of the House. Its leaders refused all along to accept any federal money for the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The Florida Senate overwhelmingly passed a plan that, while rejecting traditional Medicaid, would have accepted the federal funds and used them to subsidize private coverage. The Senate plan is modeled on one just adopted in Arkansas.

On Thursday, the House returned more or less to normal, as the automatic bill reader dubbed "Mary" was returned to the closet. On Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday, the machine did a quick-read of bills after Democrats invoked a rule requiring that every bill be read in full.

The slowdown was intended to bring attention to the failure of the health-insurance deal.

Hear NPR reporter Greg Allen's report on how Mary became a star for a day.

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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