What is Florida Health Choices (FHC)?
FHC is a website that individuals and eventually small businesses are supposed to be able to use to compare and buy health insurance as well as other products that are health care-related but are not health insurance.
Is Florida Health Choices related to the Health Insurance Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act?
No. FHC is not related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or the federal Marketplace in any way. In fact, none of the products that FHC will sell during its initial phase provide comprehensive health coverage, and in many cases they are not coverage at all. Also, the ACA’s Premium Tax Credits that make coverage affordable can’t be used in FHC.
Is Florida Health Choices run by the government?
No, but FHC is subject to some of the same rules. FHC is a quasi-public corporation created by the Florida Legislature. FHC has its own board of directors and is not under the control of any state agency. However, FHC board members are appointed by the Governor, legislative leaders and state agencies. In addition, FHC is required to comply with all open meeting and public records laws. Finally, FHC has the ability to sidestep state (but not federal) insurance rules, but has not done so yet.
Why is Florida Health Choices launching now?
Actually, FHC was created by the Legislature back in 2008, and efforts to get FHC up and running have been ongoing since then. Some of the reasons behind FHC’s 5-year launch delay are unclear, but they include challenges in addressing the concerns of insurers and agents as well as problems with contractors. The ACA and the real Health Insurance Marketplace also caused difficulties for FHC, because many low-value/low-benefit plans that would likely have been the backbone of FHC’s business cannot legally be sold (by FHC or anyone else).
But doesn’t Florida Health Choices call itself “Florida’s Health Insurance Marketplace”?
Unfortunately, yes. FHC obtained a state trademark for this name in 2011. Health care advocates are concerned that the use of this misleading tagline will cause significant confusion among consumers.
Who does Florida Health Choices think of as its customers?
FHC’s main target was supposed to be small businesses, but FHC can sell to individuals as well. Because no insurance companies have committed to sell plans to employers so far, FHC’s will only sell to individuals during its start-up phase. FHC will try to reach those without coverage or who want to supplement the coverage they have.
What exactly is Florida Health Choices selling?
For the time being, FHC will only sell discount medical plans, which simply reduce the cost of services but do not actually cover anything, and limited benefit plans, which at best supplement real coverage in areas like dental.
Why are advocates concerned about Florida Health Choices?
Advocates do not oppose the idea of increasing competition in an effort to lower costs for employers. Rather, they are very concerned about marketing products to consumers that do not really protect them and provide an illusion of coverage. The potential for confusion between FHC and the federal Marketplace is also a big problem.
Florida Health Choices has speculated that the products it sells may help Floridians who fall into the “coverage gap” created by Florida’s failure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Is this true?
No. In fact, it’s ridiculous and cruel. Floridians in the gap all live in poverty and struggle to meet basic needs, but should they pay a monthly fee just to get a discount card that reduces the cost of services to a level still completely out of reach? Or purchase a plan with minimal benefits that leaves them no better off? FHC will not provide a viable health care option to those in the coverage gap. Only accepting the federal expansion dollars will do that.