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Was Florida right to delay implementing the Affordable Care Act?

It’s not just deciding whether to expand Medicaid and create a state-based exchange. Florida legislators have numerous policy and regulatory decisions ahead of them related to implementation of the Affordable Care Act. And time is ticking.

For example, there are conflicts between state insurance laws and the federal law established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Companies are trying to figure out whether they need to submit new paperwork in Tallahassee or Washington, and a federal May 1 deadline is looming.

The uncertainty in Florida, creating in part by the state’s refusal to implement the law until it had no choice, led to more finger pointing today during the House’s Select Committee on PPACA.

“The law passed back in 2010, and because there was a philosophy, and ideology that this shouldn’t be the law -- even though it was the law -- we don’t have a contingency plan,” said Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg. “We’re reacting now, at the 11th hour essentially, and we’re flat-footed and completely unprepared to implement the law as it is.”

State insurance regulators insisted that they have been studying their options and staying aware of the needs all along, even if their hands are ultimately tied until the Legislature decides what it wants to do. Officials with the Office of Insurance Regulation say they could present a bill this session that puts Florida law in line with the federal government, but each week there is new information coming from Washington that could require even more changes.

With everything still in flux, Florida did the right thing by waiting, Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, said.

“As we find out everyday, the federal government is rolling out new regulations that change the whole scenario, creating uncertainty for employers, creating uncertainty for insurance companies and creating uncertainty for the Florida Legislature,” Wood said after the meeting.

He also suggested that the state should allow the federal government to take more of the lead in carrying out the law, even if it means repealing some Florida laws and regulations that are now in conflict.

“The fed government is the one we need to look to,” Wood said. “They’re the ones that have created this law. They’re the ones that need to implement it. And they’re the ones that are going to have to be responsible for its impact.”