New FL Health Care Law Includes Alternatives for Small Businesses

May 22, 2008 ( - Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed into law a bill intended to offer new health coverage to uninsured Floridians and a competitive insurance marketplace for small businesses.

The Miami Herald reports that the law includes two distinct phases: one based on a proposal by Crist for insurance companies to offer stripped-down health policies to individuals for a reduced price, and a second based on the proposal by West Miami House Speaker Marco Rubio to set up a public-private corporation that would act as a human resources department and a virtual marketplace for health plans for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

The public-private corporation will cost about $1.5 million to set up, and will act as a middle-man between health providers and small businesses, the news report said. It will fund its operations from a portion of the premiums it collects from the businesses.

The corporation will help small businesses figure out the proper forms to fill out and how much they will contribute to an employee’s plan. Also, it will negotiate with health-plan providers, which could include insurers or a new health network, on prices and coverage. The corporation will have final regulatory say over all the plans, though the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation examine the insurance plans offered.

If an employer selects a new plan from the public-private corporation, it must notify employees, who would then have 90 days to switch over to the new coverage plan, drop insurance altogether, or buy one of Governor Crist’s Cover Florida plans.

Crist’s Cover Florida Plan

Governor Crist’s Cover Florida plan will allow an insurer to be free of many of the more than 50 government mandates for services, according to the Miami Herald. Crist said less coverage means a lower price — as low as $150 a month as opposed to the current premiums people pay of about $600.

The plans would have to guarantee some mandatory coverage —such as for diabetes, and insurance companies would have to offer two plans: one with so-called catastrophic coverage and one without. The scope and extent of the benefits offered still have to be worked out, so it is unclear what will be covered and what the plans will cost.

Crist indicated negotiations with insurance companies could be completed and the Cover Florida plans available by January, the news report said.