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Obamacare takes center stage in Senate select committee

6:30 PM, Dec 3, 2012   |    comments
The Senate Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act meets for the first time at the state Capitol.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida has not taken any action yet to start implementing the federal health care law but with the re-election of President Obama, state lawmakers are now getting serious about the issue.

On Monday, members of the Senate Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act met for the first time to talk about the law and take a closer look at how it will affect Floridians.

Chairman Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said the committee has several goals: determine the impact of the law on Floridians, make sure it provides adequate protections for consumers, promote competition and choice, and decide whether the state should operate its own health insurance exchange or if the feds will run it.

"My general view under federalism principles is that the state is better, closer to the people, to be the one that implements new changes in government. However, because this plan was created in Washington, a lot of things that are being done there aren't really what's in the best interest of Floridians. So we really don't know yet what's the best way to go and that's why we want to study the issue."

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Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said she thinks the state should run the health insurance exchange.

"We can do it or we can just put our head in the sand and then the federal government will run the exchange. So there's no argument as far as I'm concerned... it's a no-brainer that we should be the author and finishers of what our exchanges look like."

The exchange will be an online resource where Floridians can shop for health insurance. That part of the federal health care law takes effect in January, 2014.

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The committee will also consider whether Florida should expand Medicaid coverage to include people who earn 133 percent of the poverty level.

Negron said he also sees the state doing what it can to limit, what he called, the regulatory burden on Florida businesses covered by the ACA.

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