Florida Bill Allows Health Insurers To Sell Bare-Bones Health Plans

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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist(R) on Wednesday signed into law a bill that will allow the sale of low-cost,bare-bones health insurance policies, the NewYork Timesreports (Sack, New York Times, 5/22).

Under the "Cover Florida" plan, residents ages 19 to 64 will be ableto purchase limited health coverage for as little as $150 per month. Insurersoffering such plans will be exempt from state mandates requiring coverage for arange of items and procedures (Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report,5/6). However, the plans will be required to include coverage for some conditions,such as diabetes (Caputo/Wyss, Miami Herald, 5/22). The policies will cover preventivecare and office visits but not care from specialists or long-term hospitalizations(Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 5/6). Insurance companies also will berequired to offer two plans: a catastrophic health plan and one that does notinclude catastrophic coverage. The scope of the benefits offered under theplans has not yet been finalized. The Cover Florida plans could be available byJanuary 2009 (Miami Herald, 5/22).

The law also will allocate $1.5 million to establish a corporation to helpbusinesses with fewer than 50 employees negotiate health insurance rates, aswell as handle premiums and claims (Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report,5/6). In addition, the law sets a minimum number of days for a hospital stayafter childbirth, includes some types of transplants and extends the age achild can remain on a parents coverage to age 30 (Royse, AP/MiamiHerald,5/21).

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Reducing Health CareCosts

The Times alsoexamined how states' "bold ideas of recent years" for expandinghealth coverage "have been swept away by a worrisome economy, leavingincrementalism and caution in their stead." Florida's law represents"a common thread in state capitals this spring, as governors and lawmakersstruggle to respond to broad anxiety about health care within the limitationsof deeply strained budgets," the Times reports. In somestates, "the focus is shifting from covering the uninsured to lowering thecost of health care," according to the Times.

Crist, who noted that the Floridabudget was reduced to $66 billion this year from $72 billion last year, said,"The economy is in a different place right now," adding, "Ourobligation is to find a way without tax dollars to still provide better healthcare for our people."

Laura Tobler, a health policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said, "To create successful coveragestrategies, historically states have had to ante up," adding, "Butmore than half of states are reporting shortfalls. So there hasn't been as muchactivity this year as the last two, and the activity we have seen has been ofthe regulatory nature, which costs less money" (New York Times,5/22).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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