Florida now has another month to decide whether it will implement a state-run healthcare exchange or default to a federal one, and Governor Rick Scott seems more open to the program now than ever before.
With the initial deadline for the state to notify Health and Human Services set for Friday, Scott sent HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius notice not of his decision, but his interest in sitting down to talk. The official deadline has been pushed to mid-December, and many local lawmakers are relieved there will be more time now to sort out some issues.
“I think we have enough time to at least begin the conversation,” says State Senator John Thrasher.
The conversation, up to this point, hasn’t happened in Florida because Scott was one of several Republican Governors waiting for the Presidential election to pass with the hope that Romney would win and the federal healthcare law would be overturned. Once that proved to not be the case, Scott, Thrasher and other lawmakers began to sit down and really look at cost.
“You’re talking about billions- not millions, but billions- of dollars. I think a thoughtful approach to this is what’s prudent,” Thrasher says.
The Florida Legislature meets for an organizational session this week in order to officially install the incoming leadership. Thrasher expects there will be some chatter about the healthcare options, especially once the new related committees are formed. While typically there is nothing “substantive” that would come out of this session, Thrasher says just having those leaders in place is good groundwork.
“That gives us then the opportunity, I think as early as December, at least to begin some discussions with the Governor,” he says.
The official session doesn’t begin until March, and Thrasher has heard of no talk up to this point about any special session relating to this healthcare decision, so he thinks the next few weeks of talks, meetings, and information gathering will be important- especially with what Scott hopes to bring down from the federal level.
“I just have a belief that the federal government wants to work with us, we want to try to work with then, we want to try to figure out the best thing for the state of Florida,” Thrasher says.
And his belief, cost aside, is that local control would be best for Floridians.
“We all, from a principled standpoint, want to make sure that we do everything we can to insure out more vulnerable citizens for healthcare,” he says.
And having the state itself make those decisions rather than the federal government would, in Thrasher’s perspective, be a better deal all around. He says he hopes all parties involved can find common ground and get the answers they are looking for in making this decision.