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Public option on roll, but not here

By Gary Fineout
10/27/2009 © Health News Florida 

As a public option in health reform  gains momentum in Washington, Republican officials uniformly condemned it today. 

Gov. Charlie Crist said the nation would be better off adopting his Cover Florida plan. "I don't think a public option is a good way to go for America or Florida," he said. "I think Cover Florida is a better way to go."

Attorney General Bill McCollum, also a Republican, also slammed it. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, McCollum's Democratic opponent for governor, withheld comment saying she needs to look over the final product.

Crist's Cover Florida plan, introduced in January, allows companies to offer stripped-down plans for less money than conventional coverage. But only two companies have offered the plans statewide.
Only about 4,000 Floridians had signed up for the plans as of last month, while consumer groups say more than that have been losing their health coverage every month in Florida because of the economy.  While young adults can get bare-bones plans for $150 a month through Cover Florida, those ages 45 to 65 say the prices -- which run around $400 for them -- are too high for such limited coverage, especially for those who have lost their jobs.

Still, Crist has been bragging recently about his plan on cable news and op-ed pieces because it has no government requirements and no public money involved.

“We have found that by working with the private sector, we can increase health care choices without increasing taxes or the size of government,” he has said.

This morning, Sink said it would be "irresponsible" to take a position on health reform until the legislation is finished and she can understand its impact on Florida. She was followed outside the Capitol by a small group of protesters, including one dressed in a duck costume. Sink's opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum, has accused Sink of ducking the issue.

Rather than talk about whether Florida should opt out, McCollum confined his comments to slamming the bills before Congress that contain the public option.  He said it was a bad idea altogether and that it would lead to a "degradation" of private health insurance in this country. 

On Monday night, U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, told a town hall meeting in Polk County that he opposes the public option and a lot of other things in the bills before Congress, according to the Ledger. Putnam, on his fifth two-year term in the House,  is running for Florida commissioner of agriculture in 2010.

--Gary Fineout, a free-lancer reporter in Tallahassee, can be reached
by e-mail.