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Sen. Aaron Bean says federal government will likely run Florida's health exchange initially

State Sen. Aaron Bean brings a unique perspective to the Legislature's debate on how to implement the new health care law. As chairman of Florida Health Choices, the state's health insurance marketplace, he knows all too well how the indecision among lawmakers have created uncertainty across the state.

Florida Health Choices, which pre-dates the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act but operates very similar to the health exchanges mandated in the law, is scheduled to launch later this year. But there is also a chance the Legislature will also the public-private partnership to alter its mission to meet the requirements of the health care law.

Those decisions aren't coming anytime soon, said Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.

“It looks as if the first year Florida will default to allowing the federal government to run the exchange or having the federal government do it, then the following year it’s up in the air," he told the Florida Health Choices board during today's meeting.

Rose Naff, the chief executive officer of Florida Health Choices, said insurers have chosen not to participate in Florida Health Choices because of uncertainty about how the state will implement the health care law.

"Two of them decided to wait and see waht decisions the state was going to make about an exchange before they decided to get on our marketplace," she said. "So we are being affected by the ACA just by virtue of our vendor community being unsure about what it's going to be required to do in the future."

For now, Bean said, it is best for Florida Health Choices to move forward with its launch and not worry too much about the Affordable Care Act.

"Our mission has not changed," he told the board. "Even if what ever happens, we’re still a player. We’re still going forward.” 

But when asked whether he wants Florida Health Choices to become the state's health exchange, Bean said he's not sure. At first, he said, the idea intrigued him. But now he's worried that the health care law restricts choice too much.

"The Affordable Care Act really restricts what can be sold, what can be bought on the exchange," he said. "There is severe limitations and, every month now, more and more rules are coming that restrict. For a freedom-loving guy like I am, it brings me great angst to look at that and see do we want to do that.”

But he also caution the board that there may come a time when they don't have a choice. Even if the state sets up a health exchange separately from Florida Health Choices, they could eventually see themselves in competition with one another. With families facing penalties if they don't buy insurance plans that comply with the health care law, they would be forced to choose the health exchange over plans available in Florida Health Choices that don't meet Obamacare requirements.

“So eventually, down the road we’re going to have to start selling what the federal government wants to sell," Bean said.