Cover Florida Program Launches
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) on Wednesday signed contracts with six health insurance companies to offer affordable health coverage plans to the state's 3.8 million uninsured residents under the new Cover Florida Health Care program, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. Beginning Jan. 5, 2009, residents who are unemployed or have been without health insurance for at least six months will be eligible to select from the 25 available health plans that have an average monthly premium of $155 (Ash, Tallahassee Democrat, 12/11).
Although the plans offered are targeted for residents between ages 19 and 64, four of the six insurance providers also offer low-cost plans for children, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and United Healthcare will offer policies statewide, while the remaining four insurers will offer coverage in specified regions of the state (Hafenbrack/Deslatte, Orlando Sentinel, 12/10). According to the Miami Herald, the type and cost of the plan depends on which county the residents live in and whether they have opted for a 'preventive' or 'catastrophic' plan, which includes the most hospital care and costs about $290 per month. The least expensive plan would cost about $51 per month (Caputo, Miami Herald, 12/11). Both plans include prescription drug coverage but typically cover no more than $1,000 annually, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (LaMendola/ Hafenbrack, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/11).
Crist said, "Today, Floridians are one step closer to having the quality, affordable health care they deserve," adding, "This is about helping people, helping children, helping seniors and making a difference in their lives. It's about freedom and choices" (Miami Herald, 12/11).
Health insurance officials said that the new program would be beneficial mainly to residents with chronic illnesses or pre-existing conditions who are unable to find other coverage options, but it falls short for healthy individuals who already can purchase comparable coverage elsewhere for similar costs, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
Steve Israel, a spokesperson for the Florida Association of Health Underwriters, said, "We haven't heard much interest. People want full coverage." He added, "The positive is that people have a chance to get insurance, and for most everyday things, it will help. But to me, it's very inadequate. A lot is not covered" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/11).
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