FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers considering how to implement the federal health care overhaul sought information Tuesday from two economists on the Massachusetts initiative that served as the blueprint for the national plan.
Massachusetts pioneered an approach emulated in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) with its 2006 health care initiative and is currently the only state that requires individuals to have health insurance.
“I thought it would be helpful to examine the results so far in Massachusetts and consider implications of that experience for Florida,” said Republican Sen. Joe Negron, the chairman of a Senate committee studying the health overhaul. ”Not everyone agrees with the Massachusetts experiment and how it’s turned out.”
Jonathan Gruber, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who helped craft Massachusetts’ law, hailed it as “a great success” that cut the number of insured residents by two-thirds and lowered premiums in the individual commercial health insurance market by about 50 percent. He said the initiative did so without crowding out private insurers.
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Michael Cannon, director of Health Policy Studies for the Cato Institute, argued that the law depresses economic activity, eliminates jobs and increases health care costs along with burdening the federal government.
Cannon told lawmakers that Florida led the country in challenging the constitutionality of PPACA and that the state shouldn’t respond to Supreme Court decisions that have given states leeway on whether to expand Medicaid “by shrugging and implementing that costly Medicaid expansion anyway.”
The Florida Senate PPACA committee posted documents related to the economists’ presentations here.
Florida lawmakers are facing two major decisions regarding PPACA. They must choose whether to expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 900,000 more low-income families and whether to have the state run its health exchange on its own or partner with the federal government. The federal government is offering to pick up the entire tab of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years about 90 percent after that.
Florida spends about $21 billion a year to cover nearly 3 million of the state’s poorest residents, about half of whom are children.
Gruber said that if Florida does not expand Medicaid it will lead to higher premiums for those shopping for coverage in the state health exchange because hospitals will still have to cover uninsured patients in crisis.