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Senate committee advances bill requiring coverage for pre-existing conditions

If Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act, Florida should still ensure patients with pre-existing conditions are able to secure health insurance, a Senate committee said Monday.
Members of the Senate Health Policy committee agreed unanimously to advance SB 322, which would require insurers to offer at least one policy that could not refuse or restrict coverage for patients based on their existing medical conditions. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, would not take effect unless the signature Obama-era healthcare law is repealed or struck down and is meant only to provide a backup if the federal landscape changes, he said.
The legislation comes amid ongoing efforts to challenge the Affordable Care Act, which bars insurers from denying coverage to people with already existing medical conditions. Republican lawmakers in Congress have unsuccessfully attempted to repeal the healthcare law and portions of the law have been challenged in federal court.
Though Simpson’s bill would require every insurer and health maintenance organization offer a policy for residents regardless of existing medical conditions, it does not specify any limitations on how much those plans can charge.
Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, questioned the lack of such limits during Monday’s committee hearing: “Have we put any protections [in place]?"
Simpson said the bill contains no such provisions but that he had another bill forthcoming that addresses some of the cost concerns. 
A similar question came up last month during the bill’s first stop in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, when Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, worried about past instances when plans that would cover people with pre-existing conditions "were too high for you to be able to afford it.”
Simpson said then that the legislation was not meant to fully outline a possible alternative to the ACA but to "guarantee" that some coverage would exist for pre-existing conditions if the federal law is changed. 
The bill, which does not have a House equivalent, has been referred to one more committee before it reaches the full Senate.
Image: Sen. Wilton Simpson, c/o Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times