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Healthcare politics: Rubio v. Crist plans

A health coverage plan for 3.8 million uninsured Floridians has stalled amid the down-to-the-wire politics of a state lawmaking session where there has been too little money and trust to ensure swift passage.

Both Gov. Charlie Crist and fellow Republican House Speaker Marco Rubio of West Miami have made the issue a top priority. But they now have only five days left to reconcile basic differences in their plans that reflect basic differences in their styles:

Crist's ''Cover Florida'' plan is simple and passed the Senate quietly and unanimously. It would offer individuals less-expensive health insurance in return for less-expansive coverage.

Rubio's ''Florida Health Choices'' plan is more complex and passed on a party-line vote last weekend after Democrats forced a marathon 16-hour parliamentary slowdown. The plan borrows Cover Florida plans, and also creates a new public-private corporation to act as both health-plan ''marketplace'' and as human resources department for small businesses.

Rubio and fellow House Republicans say they've scaled back their proposal, at Crist's insistence, to ensure it has more ''consumer protections.'' But they fear that could lead to ``over-regulation.''

Though a compromise product is likely, Rubio is preparing to scuttle the legislation if Health Choices isn't in the mix.

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