Could Florida tap into plan other than the Affordable Care Act?

Separate plan would tap into federal money


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Around 1 million people in Florida are left out when it comes to health care coverage. But now there are plenty of backers pushing a new effort that would tap in to federal money.

A total of 27 states have accepted expansion money from the government. Only four other states have done so with a separate plan from the Affordable Care Act and Florida could become the fifth.

Medicaid expansion has failed to take off in Florida since it first became available in 2012. Republican lawmakers have opposed federal money and have tried to distance themselves from the president's Affordable Care Act. But 2015 could be a different story.

Healthy Florida Works is trying to provide an alternative that sways conservatives. The plan would tap into the $5 billion a year of federal money currently available which could help cover 1 million Floridians. 

The compromise is that it would require monthly premiums to be paid, as well as mandate recipients search for work or job training.

Multiple business groups are backing it. Damien Filer, with Progress Florida, said the bottom line is people without coverage need it.

"I think there are a lot of different ways that we can get there," Filer said. "The important thing is that we're taking a first step and this is a very meaningful one, so I think this is very encouraging that this is happening."

And even though there's plenty of momentum behind the program, lawmakers in Florida just last month didn't sound as optimistic.

New Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli seemed to indicate his chamber wouldn't change their ways.

"We believe. We stand firm where we believe we are right now and that's without expansion," Crisafulli said.

But there's still plenty of time to change minds between now and March, when 2015's legislative session will start.