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Florida's health care insurance exchange

Last year, Gov. Rick Scott rejected the option under the Affordable Care Act to set up a state-based online health insurance exchange, citing concerns about the cost of health care. Instead, the federal government will set up an exchange where Florida residents and small businesses can buy insurance and learn if they qualify for federal subsidies. The state, however, has been working on a version of a health exchange for several years. Called Florida Health Choices, the quasi-private exchange was funded with $1.5 million from the Legislature in 2008. Sen. Marco Rubio backed the exchange when he was Speaker of the Florida House. Its board is appointed by the governor, Senate president and House Speaker. This year, it received another $900,000 from the state. The exchange is supposed to be self-sustaining.

But Florida Health Choices has been slow to get off the ground, in part because Gov. Charlie Crist delayed appointing board members for several years. Rose Naff, its CEO, wasn’t hired until 2010.

Florida Health Choices is expected to launch this year and target small businesses at first. But it may be difficult to find insurers to sign on. Even the federally run exchanges are having to coax insurers to join. So far only Florida Blue (and its affiliate Florida Health Care Plans) is on board. Dental plans will be offered through Liberty Dental and Argus Dental.

Florida Health Choices will charge insurers a 2.5% fee for all premiums sold, less than the 3.5% fee the federal health insurance exchange will charge. Naff says this allows her to sell cheaper plans than the federal health insurance exchange.