'BeanCare' Set For Senate Hearing As An Alternative To Negron's Medicaid Alternative

Apr 1, 2013

Florida lawmakers rejected an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act but are coming up with alternatives.

Republicans balked at the expansion, saying federal support can’t be guaranteed. They grumbled at a proposal by Sen. Joe Negron that relies on federal Medicaid money to steer the eligible population into the state’s kidcare program, but another Senator is putting forth an alternative to that alternative which would cover fewer people, and doesn’t rely on federal money.

Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) has unveiled a plan steering 500,000 low-income Floridians who don’t qualify for traditional Medicaid services into private health plans.  Bean’s proposal would require Health Savings Accounts with $20 a month contributions. Those recipients would be able to participate in health insurance plans offering wraparound services like pharmacy benefits.  

“We have been approached by providers to do prepaid health clinics for primary care and specialists for $69/month," said Rose Naff, CEO of Florida Health Choices, a state-based insurance market place for small businesses ht isn't yet operational.

"Three discount medical plans have approached us ...with a wide variety of options, for instance. Just physician and hospital benefits for $9.99/month. Or a discount plan that includes images, labs, diabetes supplies and nurse line for $14.95/month,' she said.

The savings accounts would cover things like co-pays. Florida Health Choices would administer the Health Savings Accounts along with the  wraparound service plans, which could also include things like primary care networks and dental services.

Lawmakers rejected an expansion of the Medicaid program under the federal health law. The expansion would have covered people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level . That’s $15,000 for an individual and $26,000 for a family of three. But Bean says many of those people could qualify for subsidized health plans in federal insurance exchanges, and he wants to focus on those under 100 percent of the federal poverty level, such as people in the state’s Medically Needy program.  Ahead of a Tuesday hearing on Bean’s proposal, consumer advocates like Karen Woodall say Bean’s proposal covers too few people and doesn’t go far enough.

“Between 100-138-percent of poverty is still very low-income. I think that’s the number one problem with that kind of proposal. We’re leaving a lot of money, which means a lot of jobs and a lot of coverage for Floridians on the table," Woodall said.

Meanwhile, a competing proposal, by Senator Joe Negron is already making its way through the legislature. Negron’s plan would cover roughly the same number of people who would have otherwise qualified for the federal Medicaid expansion. Negron’s bill let’s more people into the state’s KidCare program which offers low-cost health insurance plans, and it relies on  $51 billion dollars in federal Medicaid money over the next ten years to support those additional people.