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Kathleen Sebelius to Florida Legislature: That $51 Billion Offer Is Still Good for the Taking

| October 9, 2013

Yours for the taking: Kathleen Sebelius says Florida can still get its $51 billion over 10 years if it expands Medicaid.

Yours for the taking: Kathleen Sebelius says Florida can still get its $51 billion over 10 years if it expands Medicaid.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has become the Obama administration’s envoy to Florida on behalf of the Affordable Care Act. She has visited the state half a dozen times since June, trying to get the word out to the state’s millions of uninsured to sign up for a health plan.

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This week she visited the University of South Florida’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, where Health News Florida editor Carol Gentry spoke with her.

CG: All right, so I want you to tell me if you could talk directly to uninsured people of Florida, what would you say, what’s your message for them?

KS: The Affordable Care Act is a brand-new opportunity to have health security for yourselves and your families. That most uninsured eligible Floridians will qualify for some financial help from the federal government  to purchase health insurance since you don’t have affordable health insurance through the workplace.

If you work part-time, if you’re a self-employed entrepreneur, if you run a family farm, if you’ve been out of the market because you’re locked out because of a preexisting condition or priced out because of health coverage just being too high, this is an opportunity to get affordable health care. We have a 26-week open-enrollment period that lasts all the way ’til March 31 –.

CG: Let me break in—So your primary message would be: Take a deep breath, give us a couple days, it will  be ready?

KS:  Oh absolutely, it’s ready now. People are enrolling now. We just don’t have the ease of enrollment that we hoped to have within a couple of days through the website. But calling the toll-free  hotline at 800- 318-2596 — that’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, up to  150 languages can be spoken — going to  the website or finding a local navigator here in Florida.

Community health centers all have trained outreach and enrollment folks. There are navigators on the ground. You can find somebody in your neighborhood to help you.

CG: Let me ask you about what you would say to legislators in FL if you had the opportunity.

KS: I would say there is a financial offer on the table where the federal government would pay for 100% of uninsured Floridians who are below 133% of poverty, 100% for first three years and gradually reduce that to a 90-10 share.  That’s a huge investment in Florida. Over $51 billion from the federal government would come in over the next 10 years, paid for —

CG:–You said it doesn’t come from the deficit?

KS:  It does not at all.   The Affordable Care Act is entirely paid for within the Affordable Care Act (Editor’s note: through industry taxes and reductions in spending) and it has not added a dime to the deficit. So that’s money on the table, that’s an offer for Florida.

I can tell you as a former governor, I would have loved to have had that offer when I was serving in Kansas because the opportunity to expand affordable health coverage for our lowest-income working families  would have been really a gift to the state. So I’m hoping Florida legislators will follow  Gov. Scott’s recommendation and expand Medicaid.

CG: So we’re losing $5 billion a year for every year that –

KS: You bet. And independent business studies have said there would be an additional $90 billion in economic development just generally in the state, new hires, new businesses, opportunities that the state could put tax dollars toward other things.

So, the offer’s open, there is no deadline for a state to come in, so I’m hoping when the Florida Legislature reconvenes in January –the bill passed  the Senate, it failed in the House– so hopefully they will take a new look at their return on investment.

CG: Thank you.

KS: Sure.


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8 Responses for “Kathleen Sebelius to Florida Legislature: That $51 Billion Offer Is Still Good for the Taking”

  1. Adam says:

    Its like Satan tempting Eve to bite the Apple. Go ahead, take it….Don’t worry, we don’t want ANYTHING in return…..PROMISE–Cross my Horns !!!

  2. Sherry Epley says:

    Why in the world do we have one person in our state who simply doesn’t get it that decent health care for every citizen is a GOOD thing. Yet again, our state legislators have dug in their outrageously partisan heels simply to be in opposition to anything President Obama proposes. The ACA (Obama Care) is LAW! The Supreme court says so! Yet, our legislators are again making Florida a laughing stock by refusing Federal funds for our citizens who really, really need that assistance. Our legislators clearly are marching to the drum beat of Facist conservatives, instead of representing the needs of the people who elected them.


  3. Mike says:

    @ Sherry, everyone does deserve health care, just not at the expense of other taxpayers, the law as it stands is very flawed. There are 2300 pages that most legislators have never bothered to read until one did and said; hold on this is not good. They need to come up with a new better plan to insure those who cannot get healthcare through their employers. The law as it stands will stop economic growth and cripple small to medium size companies, the big problem is the politicians acting like spoiled children fighting over the last cupcake is a disgrace to our political system. I had a friend go on and try to get coverage for him and his wife, $569 a month with a $13,000 deductible, how is this affordable? You are $20,000 in before they pay on your claim. Like he said he will go with no coverage since he didn’t spend that much on medical bills over the last 10 years, the $750 fine is a bargain, this health care act is a failure.

  4. Genie says:

    They had nearly 4 years to set this up. And we’re still having computer problems???? Why wasn’t this tested before now?

    How many here have had good luck getting through? Were you happy with the process?

    Is it media hype we’re hearing or did Kathleen Sebelius fail to do her job properly? C’mon, let’s hear some first hand local accounts, please.

  5. Sherry Epley says:

    Again. . . the ACA does NOT set the premium rates for insurance companies. President Obama wanted an inexpensive federal “public option” similar to Medicare, but the Republicans in Congress would NOT allow it. If your health insurance rates in the state of Florida are high, it is because our Republican legislature not only turned down the billions offered by the Federal government, our governor, Rick Scott, signed an “ACA poison pill” provision that has stopped our state insurance commissioner from being able to negotiate rates. NO ONE but Rick Scott and our state legislature is responsible for the high health insurance premiums in Florida!

  6. A.S.F. says:

    @Genie says–Every major reform effort this country has ever undertaken, historically, including Social Security and Medicare, has had bugs at its inception that had to be worked out. I wonder where many of the conservative commentors on this forum, who think we should shut down healthcare reform because of computer glitches, would be if we had shut THOSE programs down due to problems that arose at the very start.

  7. Genie says:

    Two Weeks Later, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Still Unable to Sign Up.

    Bugs? They had plenty of time to get this up and running.

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