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NO INSURERS, BUSINESSES IN STATE HEALTH PROGRAM

TALLAHASSEE - Florida Health Choices, pushed as a solution to the state's high rate of uninsured residents last year by Republican House leaders, still has no insurers or businesses signed up.

That makes it even less successful than the program created at the same time, Gov. Charlie Crist's Cover Florida. At the end of July, it had about 4,130 policies, while recent census data show the number of uninsured Floridians has grown to 3.6 million.

The results so far mean that neither Crist nor Marco Rubio, his opponent in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, can use the state's efforts on the uninsured as campaign fodder. Rubio pushed the Health Choices plan as House speaker.

State Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, had predicted the plans wouldn't accomplish much and called them cosmetic.

"Florida has no meaningful response to the crisis of the uninsured, and we're not even mentioning the underinsured," Gelber told Health News Florida.

Crist is partly to blame for delays on Health Choices because he was slow to make appointments to the board, says Chairman Aaron Bean, who sponsored the plan last year as House Health Council leader. Bean also faulted Sunshine Law requirements that require meetings to be advertised so that the public can attend, saying that lengthens the process.

He remains hopeful that some health plan can be offered before the end of 2009.

"Would I have preferred to have it already be up? Yes," he said.

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