Fla. not ready for health care reform

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida led the national challenge of the Affordable Care Act, and on Friday, state lawmakers were asked to seek a delay in implementing federal health care laws because the state isn't ready yet.

Supporters of the new law say not being ready was a political decision.

In October 2010, legislative leaders sent a letter to then-Gov. Charlie Crist ordering him to put the brakes on any implementation of the Patient Protection Act. Three months and a new governor later, Gov. Rick Scott refused millions in federal money to begin setting up health exchanges. Scott believed the law would be thrown out and if it weren't, he made this promise:

"The state won't be caught flat-footed. We'll be ready," Scott said Feb. 1, 2011.

State lawmakers were told Friday the state is nowhere near ready.

"Were you all aware that if you did nothing we would be in such a bind to make the deadlines?" said Rep. Perry Thurston, House Democratic leader.

The Legislature is being asked to seek a delay in implementing the law. Supporters of the act question why?

"Because there was a philosophy and ideology that this shouldn't be a law even though it was the law," said Rep. Dwight Dudley, R-St. Petersburg. "We don't have contingency plan."

Paulette Wilson, 61, drove from Miami to beg for coverage now.

"With the economy going down is just, I had to choose whether or not to have insurance or to live," Wilson said.

Dozens of provisions of Florida law need to be changed so that insurers can comply with federal law and still write policies in Florida.

If lawmakers don't make changes by April, they'll likely find themselves back in federal court on the losing end of another battle over health care.

Most federal money that was available for setting up federally mandated heath exchanges is no longer available. Most provisions of the new law take effect Jan. 1.

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