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News from Tallahassee for 3/8/14
State Launches Discount Exchange posted on 3/5/14
After several delays, the troubled Florida Health Choices program on Tuesday launched an insurance exchange, one which is separate from the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
The launch was delayed last month after higher-than-anticipated interest in the website prompted technology experts to retool it. But CEO Rose Naff announced it is open for business with a single vendor and offers five different plans, including a prescription discount card and bundled discount products that includes vision, dental, telemedicine and prescriptions.
The program is separate from Obama's federal health law and will not offer tax credits. Consumers seeking to buy insurance on the federal exchange who mistakenly end up on Florida Health Choices' site will be directed to healthcare.gov.
For now, major insurers have not signed on to offer plans through Florida Health Choices and coverage under the program will not count as comprehensive health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Instead, Florida Health Choices will cater to consumers who don't like the president's law or may be seeking gap coverage, pharmacy discount cards and limited vision or dental plans.
The program will add more vendors going forward, which will provide coverage for prepaid health clinics, primary care and outpatient visits. Florida Health Choices also hopes to offer some type of coverage to the roughly 1 million Floridians who make a bit too much money to qualify under stringent Medicaid standards, but not enough to qualify for tax credits through the federal exchange.
Telehealth Bill Irks FMA posted on 3/4/14
by Carol Gentry | Health News Florida
A Florida House bill that would promote "telehealth" - patient care from a distance - passed a key committee Monday by a unanimous vote. It provoked an outcry from the Florida Medical Association.
The bill, (HB 751), would allow patients to be diagnosed and treated from afar using high-quality video linkups without requiring clinicians to first get a Florida license, a time-consuming and expensive chore. As long as the practitioners were licensed in their home state and registered with the state of Florida, the bill would let them practice telehealth.
That, says Florida Medical Association contract lobbyist David Custin, would be dangerous. So would the fact that nurse practitioners and other non-doctors would be included, he said.
“This is not commerce; we’re not selling widgets,” Custin said. “This is health care. It’s different, okay? There are reasons there are protections in statute.”
Matt Hudson, R-Naples, said eight counties in Florida have no hospital and in lots of communities, physicians are scarce.
“You know what? Those tired old excuses we’ve been hearing for decades? I think it’s time we let them go,” Hudson said.
Ten Issues to Watch During the 2014 Session posted on 3/3/14
by staff | news service of florida
Florida lawmakers will start the 2014 session Tuesday with a budget surplus and an eye on the November elections. But they still will have to address some tough questions before the session ends May 2. Among the questions: How can Florida better protect vulnerable children? Is it time to overhaul the state pension system? And should the state allow resort casinos to set up shop? Here are 10 issues to watch during the next two months:
BRIGHTER BUDGET: Tallahassee is always a happier place when the state has a budget surplus. And lawmakers will go into the session with a roughly $1 billion cushion. Gov. Rick Scott proposed a $74.2 billion budget plan that includes tax cuts and increased spending on education and child welfare. Lawmakers don’t have to follow Scott's recommendations, but cutting taxes and spending money on kids could be popular ideas in an election year....
HEALTH CARE FIGHTS: The 2013 legislative session was filled with debate about whether Florida should expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. While Democrats will try to resurrect the issue this year, a Medicaid expansion is all but dead. But the health-care world could see a couple of major lobbying fights, including a hospital-industry battle about state approvals of new trauma centers. Also, a debate has been raging about a House proposal to allow nurse practitioners to provide care without the supervision of physicians.
State employees could face much higher deductibles posted on 3/3/14
by jeff burlew | Tallahassee Democrat
Gov. Rick Scott and Florida lawmakers are eyeing changes to the state employee health insurance program — including the possibility of new high-deductible plans — that could affect more than 170,000 policy holders.
Scott, as part of his proposed $74.2 billion budget unveiled last month, asked the Department of Management Services to put in place options in the state group health insurance plan that would allow for health reimbursement accounts or HRAs, which typically feature high deductibles.
The proposal has prompted concern from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 79, which is at an impasse with the state over pay, health and other issues involving more than 50,000 state workers. But DMS officials say the HRA proposal would not replace current health benefits, only supplement them.
Lynda Lloyd, president of the Tallahassee Area Human Services and Professional Employees Local 3037, said few details have been offered about the HRAs. But the ones she and union members have seen are worrisome.
“I can say it has the potential to have a lot of problems,” Lloyd said. “And we don’t have enough information, for one thing. If they’re trying to make this out as such a beneficial thing, why are they putting right out there ... that the employee will pay increased costs?”
ACA Signup: 28 Days and Counting posted on 3/3/14
Sick of hearing about the health care law?
Plenty of people have tuned out after all the political jabber and website woes.
But now is the time to tune back in, before it’s too late.
The big deadline is coming March 31.
By that day, for the first time, nearly everyone in the United States is required to be signed up for health insurance or risk paying a fine.
Here’s what you need to know about this month’s open enrollment countdown:
ALREADY COVERED? NO WORRIES
Most people don’t need to do anything. Even before the health care law passed in 2010, more than eight out of 10 U.S. residents had coverage, usually through their workplace plans or the government’s Medicare or Medicaid programs. Some have private policies that meet the law’s requirements.
If you’re already covered that way, you meet the law’s requirements.
Since October, about 4 million people have signed up for private plans through the new state and federal marketplaces, the Obama administration says, although it’s not clear how many were already insured elsewhere. In addition, many poor adults now have Medicaid coverage for the first time through expansions of the program in about half the states. (Florida is not one of those states.)
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