Fla. Dems upset state playing catch up on ACA

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 25, 2013 at 5:37 pm •  Published: January 25, 2013
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Democrats expressed frustration with state insurance regulators Friday, accusing them of dragging their feet on drafting policies to comply with the new federal health overhaul.

For nearly two years after the Affordable Care Act became law, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-controlled Legislature had hoped the Supreme Court would overturn the law, but justices upheld it.

"There was a philosophy, an ideology that this shouldn't be the law even though it was the law. We don't have a contingency plan. We're reacting now at the 11th hour essentially and we're flat-footed and completely underprepared to implement that law as it is," said Rep. Dwight Dudley, a Democrat from St. Petersburg.

A House committee tasked with implementing the law including setting up ways people can choose a health plan was deluged with complicated insurance regulations during a presentation in Tallahassee about how to ensure that Florida statutes comply with the new law, leaving many with more questions than answers.

Some wondered why the state appears unprepared nearly three years after the law was passed.

"Are you saying the previous leaders of the House and Senate and the governor instructed you not to prepare to give us this information that we're looking for now," asked Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale.

Wences Troncoso, deputy commissioner of the Life and health Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, said his agency had received a letter from former House Speaker Dean Cannon and prior leadership. And Belinda Miller, general counsel for the office, said the staff completed a draft of a bill after the federal law was passed but "we did not pursue its adoption at that time because there was no appetite to do so."

Miller added that even if the bill had been enacted in 2010, it would have to be amended as federal health officials continue to come out with new regulations.

Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell worried the agency doesn't have enough staff and a plan in place to handle proposals during the Legislative session.

"The deadlines are so short and we are really under the gun that I have a great deal of concern over the ability to have a market out there," she said.

Insurance officials proposed Friday that lawmakers give them an extension to avoid a bottleneck in their agency because staffers are currently required to review health care rates within 30 days. An extension would also allow the agency to hire and train new staff, said Troncoso.