State Politics

Seeking breakthrough, Florida Senate offers changes to its health plan

Senate President Andy Gardiner on Tuesday offered a revamped version of a health care expansion proposal in an effort to gain House support and a possible breakthrough in advance of next week's special session on the budget. The revised bill addresses a number of House criticisms of the Senate's proposal.

The changes to the Senate health care plan (formerly SB 7044 and now called SB 2A) include eliminating a requirement that patients in the Senate FHIX plan (Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange) must first enroll in a Medicaid managed care plan for six months; revises enrollees' searches for jobs to be through the state workforce portal, known as Career Source; gives patients the option of enrolling in health care plans available on a federal health care exchange; and prohibits the state from seeking a federal waiver to implement FHIX that varies significantly from the legislation.

"These adjustments are the product of feedback from senators, constituents and other stakeholders and together represent a continued effort by the Senate to advance solutions and build consensus around a fiscally responsible expansion of health care coverage," Gardiner said in a statement. "This Florida solution will improve access to health care for low income Floridians and mitigate the impact to our economy as we transition from LIP to a more sustainable solution to the health care challenges facing our state. The amendment maintains, but strengthens, the core principles of the FHIX plan which earned the overwhelming bipartisan support of the Senate, as well as the endorsement of an extensive coalition of business and community leaders across Florida."

It's unclear whether Gov. Rick Scott or the House will endorse the proposed changes. The Senate plan relies on federal Medicaid money to expand health insurance to an estimated 800,000 more Florida residents, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, opposes any Medicaid expansion, as he made clear in a Tampa Bay Times op-ed a month ago.

The Legislature will reconvene June 1 to resume unresolved budget talks and consider the Senate's health care proposal. The Senate FHIX plan is scheduled to be discussed in a House workshop at 3 p.m. that day.