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House Says No to Fasano, Federal Funds

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

State Rep. Mike Fasano, a longtime Republican legislator from New Port Richey, pleaded with his GOP colleagues to vote for the Senate's "bipartisan plan" to cover 1.1 million low-income uninsured Floridians.

Fasano begged them to "bridge the aisle" that separates the political parties in Tallahassee. He asked them to accept the Healthy Florida plan by state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, which he presented as an amendment that would replace a House plan.

But House leaders said that was a bridge too far. They said it would be wrong to accept billions in federal funds under the Affordable Care Act. 

The 45 to 74 loss on the Fasano amendment sets the stage for Friday's scheduled vote to accept the House plan, called Florida Health Choices Plus. Developed by state Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, it would offer a choice of bare-bones plans to far fewer Floridians, about 115,700.

The Senate plan has the support of Senate Republicans, Democrats in both chambers, Gov. Rick Scott, big business and hospitals. But because of the House's refusal to accept federal funds, Negron has put off the vote on his bill until  next week -- the last week of the session -- in hope of finding a compromise.

House Republicans  argued that Medicaid is a broken system that pays doctors too little to assure patients can find one. They also said the federal government might not keep its promise on funding, and in any event the funds would add to the federal deficit. 

Instead of taking federal funds available -- estimated at $51 billion over 10 years -- the House would instead use about $237 million in state money to reach about 115,700 uninsured people from two groups: disabled adults and parents of children 18 and younger. Adults who don't have young children would not qualify.

It would provide a $2,000-a-year subsidy, about $167 a month, that would go into a savings account; those who received it would have to contribute $25 a month. They would choose a product from an Internet market run by a non-profit, rather than the federal exchange.

Fasano argued that the subsidy is so low that any plan available for that price would have huge gaps or a high deductible. Anyone with an income low enough to qualify would be unable to pay the deductible, he said.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.
Lottie Watts covers health and health policy for Health News Florida, now a part of WUSF Public Media. She also produces Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show.