TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NEWS SERVICE FLORIDA) - The Florida Senate on Thursday passed a sweeping health insurance bill that could protect hundreds of thousands of Floridians with pre-existing conditions while at the same time blunting the impact of the federal health care law.
The bill (SB 322) is "comprehensive in nature," sponsor Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said during floor debate Thursday.
“We are going to offer more competitive health care plans, and it’s going to allow our constituents to continue to look for insurance that is right for their families at a more affordable cost,” he added.
The Senate voted 23-14 in favor of the measure, with just two Democrats joining Republicans to support the plan.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare," there was no requirement for insurance companies to insure people with pre-existing conditions. And there was no high-risk pool for the so-called “uninsurable” to turn.
Simpson’s bill would require insurance companies and health maintenance organizations to offer at least one policy that does not exclude, limit, deny or delay coverage due to one or more pre-existing medical conditions.
“What’s sweeping about this is that Florida is going to change its policy on health care to say we are going to require our insurers to cover pre-existing conditions,” Simpson, who is slated to take over as Senate president after the 2020 elections, said.
The protections for pre-existing conditions would apply only if the federal law is repealed. But Simpson’s bill also would allow insurers to tap into rules issued by President Donald Trump's administration that permit the sale of short-term, limited health plans that don’t contain all the mandated benefits that the federal law requires.
The rules allow the creation of “association health plans” that would permit small businesses, including self-employed workers, to band together to obtain coverage across state lines. The federal rules also allow states to alter their “essential health benefits” beginning in 2020, a process Simpson’s bill sets in motion.
Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, disagreed with Simpson’s upbeat presentation of the plan. “I have a very different view of what this legislation does, “ Rodriguez said, adding that it “effectively chips away at the existing protections we have under the Affordable Care Act.”
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.