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House Making Strategic Moves For State Employee Healthcare Negotiations

chess.jpg
Credit Curtis Perry

As budget negotiations between the Florida House and Senate approach lawmakers are carefully arranging their chess sets. But as some are worried a House plan could end up putting state employees in check.

The house Appropriations Committee has approved a bill as part of its budget package that would require any new state employees to accept a high deductible health insurance program. But Appropriations Chair, Rep. Richard Corcoran ( R-Land O' Lakes) says they move is really just strategic.

“What we really want to do is the PCB bill that Jason Brodeur has working that we did last year out of the healthcare committee, which is a very pro-consumer driven model of healthcare delivery. It’s fully funded and gives the state employees much more choices than our existing healthcare plans. And so by putting this into conference we think we’ll be able to have that discussion with the Senate and maybe be able to prevail on our innovative plan,” Corcoran says.

So, to recap, while the committee is voting for a plan that would require state employees to use high deductible health plans, Corcoran says that’s not the plan he hopes will pass in the end. Instead he’s hoping to use it as a vehicle to pass Rep. Jason Brodeur’s bill. Here’s the Sanford Republican giving a quick explanation of that bill, which he says will give state employees more options.

"Let’s say every day the state gives you 10 dollars for lunch that’s your benefit. And that 10 dollars gets you soup, salad, a sandwich and a drink…What we’re saying is you know folks might not want soup, salad, lunch and a drink. Maybe they want frenchfries. Maybe they’re on a Paleo diet and they can only have meat and vegetables,” Brodeur says.

And Brodeur says state employees happy with their current coverage would be able to keep it under his bill with no expected price change.

So if that’s the bill the House wants, why is Corcoran pushing a different bill? Here’s his explanation:

“Now that it’s a conforming bill, now it’s a discussion that has to take place with the Senate,” Corcoran says.

Corcoran says the unwanted measure puts the House in the better position to discuss state employee healthcare with the Senate during budget negotiations. Brodeur’s bill passed through the full House last year. But the Senate didn’t discuss it. But by creating a specific type of bill with the unwanted measure, Corcoran is hoping the Brodeur bill  it will come up in the budget negotiations between the House and Senate and lawmakers are hoping that’s the way to get the measure through.

But Democrats like Tallahassee Representative Allan Williams worry about what happens if the plan backfires.

“I have to kind of pump the brakes here on even a thought of moving new employees into a high deductible. I think it’s important that we give our state employees the best benefits possible,” Williams says.

Williams says he understands the strategy, but still has concerns.

“Sometimes the Senate, they do things that surprise all of this and this may be one of those things. And so I don’t want to get surprised and look at a conference report that shows all new employees moving into a high deductible plan,” Williams says.

Meanwhile, Senate Appropriations Chair, Tom Lee says plenty of differences remain between the House and Senate budget plans. He says there’s still time to find common ground on many of those issues.

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