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"Cover Florida:" Health Care Insurance Relief May Not Be Enough

December 11, 2008

Many of Florida's 3.8 million uninsured residents may be able to afford health insurance next month, thanks to a new program called "Cover Florida." Supporters say it will cut monthly premiums from about $700 to about $150, but critics are concerned that the program may not cover enough.

The "Cover Florida" plan was signed Wednesday by Secretary Holly Benson of the state's Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). It will be managed primarily by United Health Care and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Benson says "Cover Florida" offers 25 plans to choose from and will give many families new hope.

"Many families just choose to do without; they can't find the money in their family budget to buy health insurance. One of the things the governor wanted to do was to make sure they had an affordable health insurance product."

Legislators passed the program unanimously, then began negotiating with the insurance companies to provide the best choices at the best prices. Benson says the final product is a program open to anyone age 19 to 64 who has been uninsured for six months or who recently lost a job. Unlike standard insurance plans, "Cover Florida" insures people with pre-existing conditions, Benson adds.

"Cover Florida" may not cover enough, however, warns Rich Templin, executive director of Florida AFL-CIO.

"It's still very much a Band-aid approach. But it's important for people to realize that the patient is bleeding to death, so if this could slow down the bleeding, it would be a good thing."

Although he agrees that any expansion of health care access is an improvement, Templin says the specifics of cost and coverage for "Cover Florida" are still unclear. Florida AFL-CIO analysts are studying the options so they can advise union members, he says. He is concerned that some of the coverage is limited.

Florida already had Kidcare and Medicaid programs in place, Templin points out, that could have provided these services with proper funding. The bigger problem is a lack of revenue, he says.

"The crumbling budget, our dismal public education system, and health care--it all comes down to a lack of revenue. Until we generate the revenue we need, approaches like this aren't going to be enough."

Information about "Cover Florida" is available at

Gina Presson/Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL