An overhaul of state group health insurance benefits moved one step closer to the floor on Tuesday with House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran declaring that he would spend his last breath as a legislator altering the health care program.
Before passing the measure, HB 7097, the committee tagged on an amendment that bill sponsor Rep. Jason Brodeur says “puts meat on the bones” with respect to a requirement effective next year that employees pay higher premiums if they enroll in the HMO. The HMO’s actuarial value is 7 percent higher than the value of the self-insured plan.
The committee heard from lobbyists who opposed the overhaul, including United Faculty of Florida who warned that diminishing benefits packages can adversely impact universities’ abilities to recruit and retain professors.
The Florida Police Benevolent Association said it was educating itself on the issue and had no official position yet. The Florida Firefighters, which represents forest rangers, also expressed concerns about the benefits and and asked the House to move along “very, very cautiously.”
In a fiery speech, Corcoran said the bill brings a health care “marketplace” to the state group health plan and said that through an education campaign state employees can learn that there are differences in the cost of care.
He called those who didn’t like the plan or spoke against it “protectors of the status quo” who are destroying the state.
“It is not Republicans, it is not Democrats that are destroying this country or this state. It is not black people, white people, Hispanic people or anybody who is destroying this country,” Corcoran said. “It is not old people or young people who is destroying this country, and destroying this state. As you emphasize with your testimony, (it) is the status quo and the protectors of it.
“And I will tell you, if it is the last dying breath I have as a legislator, we will crack the status quo. And this is will be one of the ways we do it.”
In addition to changing the premium for HMOs and PPOs, the bill directs the Department of Management Services to contract with at least one entity that provides comprehensive pricing and inclusive services for surgery and other types of medical procedures.
The bill also establishes a three-year price transparency pilot project in Tallahassee and perhaps other areas that would allow state employees to pocket any savings on health care services they can find that are lower than a published price. The savings would be split between the state group health plan and the employee.
The bill is similar to a proposal the House put forth last year, which was rejected by the Florida Senate. The chamber — which did not change in membership since last session — does not have a similar bill or proposal to change the benefit plan.