Sunshine State Bets On Sunset For Health Care Act : Shots - Health News While most states are scrambling to comply with the Affordable Care Act, Florida has a different, high-stakes strategy. Republican leaders are betting that the Supreme Court will strike down the law, and have rejected and returned federal grants to help develop a health care exchange.
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Sunshine State Bets On Sunset For Health Care Act

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Sunshine State Bets On Sunset For Health Care Act

Sunshine State Bets On Sunset For Health Care Act

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SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: No state has worked harder to the stop federal health care overhaul than Florida. Hours after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law two years ago, Florida led 12 other states in a federal court challenge. Eventually, a total of 26 states signed on. That case is the one the Supreme Court will hear starting tomorrow. Meantime, Florida's Governor Rick Scott has rejected more than $35 million in federal grants to help the state prepare for the new federal program.

From Miami, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Governor Scott says there's a good reason why Florida hasn't prepared for the Affordable Care Act.

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT: Because we believe it's unconstitutional.

ALLEN: Opposition to President Obama's health care overhaul is what drew Scott into politics. In 2009, after a career as a hospital executive, he founded a group that campaigned against the President's health care plan. Since being elected governor, Scott has led the state in rejecting a series of federal health care planning grants, including one to help the state set up a health care exchange. That's a marketplace of health care plans, required under the Affordable Care Act that must be in place by January of 2014.

Scott holds that, until the Supreme Court decides the case, the Affordable Care Act is not yet the law of the land. In an interview with member station WUSF in Tampa, Scott says until then, he has no interest in setting up a health care exchange.

SCOTT: All it's going to do is raise the cost of health care in this country. It's not good for you. It's not good for you. It's not good for you as a patient. It's not good for you as a taxpayer. It's not good for you as a business person that raises your cost and makes you lose jobs.

ALLEN: Others dispute that, saying the health care overhaul will bring down costs for consumers and business.

LOUISA MCQUEENEY: Nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Good to meet you. Thank you so much.

MCQUEENEY: How are you doing?


ALLEN: Louisa McQueeney manages a small business in Lantana, a gift food shipping company that specializes in Florida citrus. Inside her shop, there's juice, marmalade, candy and lots of fresh fruit.

MCQUEENEY: These are Ruby Red grapefruit, delicious. And these are Ortaniques, a new variety. It's a cross between an orange and a tangerine...

ALLEN: McQueeney strongly disagrees with Governor Scott and others who oppose the Affordable Care Act.

MCQUEENEY: Well, something has to happen. I mean, people do get sick.

ALLEN: McQueeney's company, Palm Beach Groves, pays for health insurance for four full-time employees. Because it's such a small business, McQueeney says Palm Beach Groves pays some of the highest premiums; nearly $2,000 a month, for example, for one employee who's in her early 60's.

MCQUEENEY: I was just hoping with the new legislation that the cost would come down, which actually it has this year. This year, we're getting a credit of $7,425, I believe it is.

ALLEN: That's a health care tax credit for small businesses put in place under the law. Eventually, if it isn't struck down by the Supreme Court, McQueeney will be able to shop for competitively priced health insurance policies through Florida's exchange. Except that it's looking increasingly likely that, if the law is upheld, Florida won't have one in place.

Florida State Representative Mark Pafford, a Democrat, introduced a bill to set up a health care exchange. The response from Republican leaders?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE MARK PAFFORD, DEMOCRAT, FLORIDA: Crickets, that's unfortunately the response.

ALLEN: Pafford says Governor Scott and Republican leaders in the legislature are so committed to stopping the federal health care law in court that they refuse to accept any federal dollars or take any steps to begin implementing it.

FLORIDA: The irony here is that if Florida doesn't do what it's supposed to being, 'cause it is federal law, the feds could come into Florida and do it for us.

ALLEN: Florida is hardly alone in dragging its feet in complying with the new health care law. A study by the Urban Institute finds 15 states are lagging in setting up health care exchanges. Many are states that, like Florida, are part of the federal lawsuit.

But while Florida hasn't done anything to set up a federally-mandated health care exchange, it has created something that looks pretty similar- an independent insurance marketplace created to help small businesses find affordable health coverage for employees. The Urban Institute's Matt Buettgens says if the law is upheld, because of its state-run health insurance marketplace, Florida won't have to start from scratch.

DR. MATT BUETTGENS: The main differences are in sort of the criteria for admitting the plans. So basically, a lot of the work that's already been done on that, you know, would be just fine.

ALLEN: But for now, in Florida and many other states, plans to comply with the Affordable Care Act are on hold, waiting until the Supreme Court rules on whether it's constitutional.

Greg Allen, NPR news, Miami.

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