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LAWMAKERS WILL BE LATE ON HEALTH CARE EXCHANGES

Echoing the talking points of Republican leaders in other states, incoming Senate President Don Gaetz and incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford sent a letter Thursday to the federal government saying that Florida will miss today's deadline to report whether the state will create its own health insurance exchange or allow the federal government to do it.

The one-page letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, followed by a two-page attachment, said the state cannot go forward to establish its own exchange without detailed rules from the federal government, and that the Legislature cannot give authority to Gov. Rick Scott to move ahead until it meets in March.

Absent from the signature list is Scott, whose office told the Times/Herald it will notify the federal government of its intentions on Friday.

The Affordable Care Act requires that states either offer exchanges - essentially online markets for the uninsured to shop for private health insurance - or the federal government will set them up for them. Many Republican-led states dragged their feet for months with the hope the Mitt Romney would be elected and the act would be repealed, but now they must make some decisions.

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