TALLAHASSEE – The House early Saturday passed a massive plan to make bare-bones health insurance available that wouldn’t cover all illnesses, but also wouldn’t cost as much.
A less wide-ranging proposal has already passed the Senate, but the goal of both plans is to provide cheaper coverage so that some of the nearly 4 million uninsured Floridians might be able to get insurance.
Currently, Florida law requires that several types of treatment be covered by health insurers. The bill passed Saturday (SB 2534) would allow the state to negotiate with insurance companies to provide policies that cover emergency care, prescription drugs, hospitalization and some other treatments, but not many of the types of care normally required. For example, they might not cover screenings for certain diseases, or transplants.
The bill would also allow other insurance companies to offer plans that cover less than those in the state plan with the idea that pared-down plans would be even cheaper.
Democrats complained that the less-regulated plans wouldn’t help the uninsured that much, and said the result would be like what happened when government failed to sufficiently regulate mortgages.
“This isn’t insurance,” said Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando. “This is sub-prime insurance.”
“We’re talking about people who have no insurance,” countered Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City. “We’re giving them options.”
Republicans defeated several Democratic attempts to add things that the scaled-back policies would have to cover, from prenatal care to prostate screenings to mammograms.
Part of the plan – the part that would allow health insurers to negotiate with the state to provide less-regulated coverage – is a top priority of Gov. Charlie Crist, who is hoping to reduce the number of uninsured in Florida. Currently, about 3.8 million of the state’s 18 million residents don’t have health insurance.
That part of the plan has already been passed by the Senate.
Crist is opposed to the part of the House plan that allows other companies to offer policies that require less than the ones participating in the state program. He says that part, which isn’t included in the Senate bill, doesn’t do enough to protect consumers.
The bill passed the House 70-39 along party lines and now returns to the Senate. The two sides must agree on identical legislation before it can go to Crist for final approval.