TALLAHASSEE — With all the focus on the federal health insurance exchange, it's easy to forget that the state is attempting to create its own separate insurance marketplace.
But don't count on the yet-to-launch program just yet.
Florida Health Choices was conceived in 2008 with the idea of helping small-business owners, but the marketplace has been hit with several delays and may now change its focus altogether to serving the uninsured and underinsured.
Officials at the state-based exchange now hope to provide options for the roughly 1 million Floridians who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to receive subsidies to purchase insurance on the federal exchange — a gap in coverage created after the Florida Legislature said "no" to expanding Medicaid coverage.
"To be relevant, we have to look at how we can change in this changing environment to meet our mission," said Rose Naff, chief executive officer of Florida Health Choices. "It makes no sense to compete with the federal exchange."
Naff says the state exchange hopes to sell its first policies in early 2014.
But issues remain.
Insurers are so preoccupied with the rollout of the federal insurance law they have paid little attention to the state exchange.
Only one statewide health care company — Florida Blue — has expressed interest in offering policies on Florida Health Choices.
The state marketplace wants to offer relatively low-cost coverage, such as discounted dental and vision plans or a set number of chiropractic visits.
Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican who served several years as the board chairman of the state exchange, said he just wants it to start already. The uninsured may be the perfect target group to make that happen.
"They're going to be hungry for an affordable policy, and that may be just the niche for Florida Health Choices to fill," Bean said.