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Gaetz and Weatherford tells feds they'll miss deadline, need more detail on health reform

Echoing the talking points of Republican leaders in other states, incoming Senate President Don Gaetz and incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford sent a letter Thursday to the federal government saying that Florida will miss the deadline Friday to report whether the state will create its own health insurance exchange or allow the federal government to do it.

The one-page letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, followed by a two-page attachment, said the state cannot go forward to establish its own exchange without detailed rules from the federal government and it can't give authority to the governor to move ahead until it meets in regular session in March.

Absent from the signature list is Republican Gov. Rick Scott, whose office told the Herald/Times it will notify the federal government of its intentions on Friday. 

The Affordable Care Act requires that states either offer exchanges, essentially online markets for the uninsured to shop for private health insurance, or the federal government will set them up for them. Many Republican-led states dragged their feet for months with the hope the Mitt Romney would be elected and the act would be repealed, but now they must make some decisions. 

"The State of Florida has not made a decision on how to proceed with the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and the state is unable to provide a Declaration Letter in accordance with the timeframe outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,'' the leaders wrote.

"Two factors prevent immediate state action on the establishment of an exchange. First, the Legislature has not authorized the Governor or any state agency or other entity to develop and operate an exchange, and no such authority can be established until the Legislature convenes in March.

"Second, the state lacks sufficient information to fully evaluate the potential impact of choosing one exchange model over another. The first issue will be addressed through the debate and decisions expected to occur during the 2013 legislative session. However, resolution of the second issue depends on the ability of your agency to provide answers to numerous critical questions."  Download Sebelius Exchange letter 2012 11 15

In an interview Thursday, Gaetz denied rumors that there will be a special session held to discuss how to go forward on the exchanges.

In the attachment that followed, the leaders said: "To make exchange decisions, Florida needs the department’s final rules, definitive guidance, financial information, timelines, and other information in all the areas for which the department has not yet provided them."  Download Exchange letter attachment 2012 11 15