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Scott likely to support Senate alternative to Medicaid expansion

Gov. Rick Scott said his objective in supporting Medicaid expansion was to ensure Florida doesn't turn down billions of federal dollars to help reduce the number of uninsured. He believes the Senate alternative that is taking shape does just that, so Scott now indicates he would sign off on that plan.

"My understanding is it's consistent with what I said I would support," Scott told the Times/Herald exclusively Tuesday. "It's 100 percent federal funding. It's taking care of the uninsured. It's using the two Medicaid waivers that I was able to get that will give us more flexibility. And it's going to deal with cost, quality and access to care."

The Senate plan is the brainchild of Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who will introduce proposed committee bill 7038 at Thursday's Appropriations Committee meeting. The 47-page plan lines up with the "guiding principles" Negron revealed last week when a Senate select committee voted against Medicaid expansion.

Although the proposal is officially titled the Healthy Florida program, it has also been referred to as the Negron Plan or even NegronCare. Among its features: 

  • -The Florida Healthy Kids Corporation would administer the program with the assistance of the Agency for Health Care Administration, Department of Children and Families and Department of Health.
  • -Participants would be able to chose among a variety of insurance options and would be required to pay a minimal monthly premium and co-payments, which have yet to be specified.
  • -Participants would also receive health reimbursement accounts that grow as they make healthy choices. The money would be used for out-of-pocket health care costs.
  • -A new 13-member board, all appointed by the governor, would take office July 1.
  • -Florida Healthy Kids will be tasked with submitting the new plans to the federal government for approval by June 14.
  • -Starting July 1, 2015, and every year after, annual statistics will be supplied to lawmakers so they can evaluate the program's performance.
  • -The program would expire at the end of any fiscal year in which the federal government ever breaks its promise to provide the vast majority of funding, starting at 100 percent initially.
  • -The program is expected to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, wants to submit a different plan for consideration. He has scheduled time during Wednesday's Health Policy Committee meeting to discuss alternatives to Medicaid expansion but so far has not put anything in writing. Previously, Bean has said he wants to utilize the federal insurance exchange and also the Florida Health Choices state-based exchanged.

Negron's plan appears to be the front-runner, but Senate President Don Gaetz said he welcomes all proposals.

"The fact that there’s more than one idea in the Florida Senate is not bad," Gaetz said Tuesday.

The House has also indicated it would craft an alternative to Medicaid expansion, but nothing has been announced. By the end of the legislative session, there should be an agreement on health care that meets the goal of receiving federal dollars to help low-income families, Scott said.

"I'm confident that the Legislature will do the right thing," he said. "And they'll use the flexibiilty that was created wtih those two waivers, and they will do basically what I said. They're not going to stand in the way of the uninsured receiving care while the federal government is going to pay 100 percent of it."