The Florida Senate opened debate on its health insurance reform plan Wednesday by breaking news.
The sponsor of the plan, Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said that after consulting with the Senate staff into the night on Tuesday, the state's top Medicaid chief, Justin Senior, changed his mind.
The Senate Florida Health Insurance Exchange plan, which Senior had concluded would reduce the number of insured, not increase them, actually could work to expand insurance to the uninsured.
Senior, the deputy director of the Agency for Health Care Administration, had called the decline a "death spiral" in testimony before the House on Monday and the Senate berated him for acting with political intent and intentionally misrepresenting the Senate bill.
Bean said Wednesday that, upon further reflection and explanation, Senior agreed to help senators craft amendments to the bill that will give his agency more flexibility to determine rates and remove the prospect of a "death spiral."
"He has removed those words and said he is ready to move forward.",'' Bean told the Senate on Wednesday.
In an email to the Miami Herald Wednesday during Senate debate, Agency for Health Care Administration spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman confirmed Senior worked with the Senate but continues to have concerns that the federal government will not approve the FHIX plan because of the work requirements.
"We can confirm we worked with the Senate as promised at the podium,'' she wrote. "The amendment has changed the premium subsidy structure and the risk adjustment mechanism in a way that alleviates our death spiral concern. This does not resolve issues relating to the federal approval concerns or mean we have shifted our position which remains neutral."