It was a very busy day for me. I was on the phone and emailing all day about today's subject which is Cover Florida.
Gov. Charlie Crist’s administration today signed contracts with six health care providers to launch Cover Florida, a plan to offer relatively low cost, no frills health care plans to Florida’s nearly 4 million uninsured.
The plans will become available to the public on Jan. 5. A state run Web site - coverfloridahealthcare.com - is expected to go live this afternoon with details on how to sign up.
Consumers can pick from 25 different plans offered by six providers, from bare bones policies covering only preventative care to more comprehensive packages.
Generally, the plans cover preventative care, office visits, office surgeries, some medical equipment like diabetic supplies and limited hospital visits.
Premiums vary widely based on age, gender and health factors, but 14 of the 25 plans offer packages with monthly premiums that average $155 or less.
There will not be any public marketing campaign to promote Cover Florida, so Crist said it is important that consumers do their homework to avoid buying policies that might not meet their medical needs.
The plans will be offered to people between 19 and 64 years old, although four of the six providers will offer children’s coverage.
Two insurance giants, United Healthcare and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, will offer statewide plans. The four remaining providers will sell on a regional basis, including Total Health Choice in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
But health care advocates have said the plan is not enough.
While Crist was signing the agreements, children services groups and the son of late Gov. Lawton Chiles were marking the 10 year anniversary of the governor’s death by drawing attention to the plight of children.
Florida still has the highest rate of uninsured children in the nation, the highest dropout rate in the nation, and one of the country’s highest juvenile incarceration rates.
Chiles and Crist are facing down over one of the budget cutting strategies the current governor favors: tapping into the Lawton Chiles Endowment to use as much as $1 billion for basic state government operations.
The endowment set up through the state’s tobacco settlement pays for children’s health care programs.
Crist said this week he would rather tap the fund than raise taxes, but Chiles said his family would demand the state take Chiles’ name off the endowment if that happens.
So what will this mean to people with HIV and AIDS who are still working? We're still looking at all the angles to make sure what pitfalls there could be.
On the surface, the positive is there would be no exemption for pre-existing conditions like HIV and AIDS, cancer, heart and other chronic conditions.
Stay tuned for further developments and make sure you read very carefully any agreement before you sign.
Wishing you health, hope and happiness.
Big bear hug,