Screenshot of the MyFloridaChoices.org website
Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- Florida has spent nearly six years trying to get its insurance-buying
website off the ground. The biggest expenditure for the taxpayer-funded
project during that time? Staff salaries.
Florida Health Choices, which plans to offer gap coverage and health discount
cards, has used about $1.4 million of the $2.4 million the Legislature
has appropriated, according to figures released to the News-Press under
the state's open records law. Nearly two-thirds went to payroll.
specifically, Florida Health Choices has spent $897,518 for a staff of
two people: the $126,000-a-year CEO Rose Naff and an administrative
director who earns $55,000. The overall figure includes payroll
services, taxes and employee benefits, Naff said.
the program's largest line items included: contract services, including
legal expenses, accounting, auditing, and other consulting ($496,606);
travel and meetings ($74,788); facilities and equipment ($72,807); other
operational costs ($63,122); and marketing and outreach ($60,090).
strongly opposed the 2010 Affordable Care Act and has resisted many of
its measures, including an expansion of Medicaid eligibility and the
option to set up a federally affiliated website. Florida Health Choices
is thus separate from healthcare.gov, the insurance exchanges that
Floridians may use to buy comprehensive health coverage under the
told reporters recently that the site will likely go fully online in
the coming weeks. In January, she had promised to switch it on by Feb.
higher-than-expected public interest on the delays. She said "thousands"
of visitors checked out the site in February, instead of the expected
hundreds. Naff said she worried those kinds of numbers might overwhelm
the federal exchange and its subsidized policies, critics of Florida
Health Choices say it is a waste of money and won't offer health
coverage that Floridians actually need.
state Legislature appropriated $1.5 million for the Florida Health
Choices project in 2008, after it received the backing of then-state
House Speaker Marco Rubio. Lawmakers provided the site another $900,000
Florida Health Choices received another $250,000 in a legal
settlement with Ceridian, the company it had initially contracted to
build the site. They parted ways in March 2012. The settlement dealdoes
not place blame on either side for the severance. Nor does either party
admit breaching the terms of its 2010 contract.
aside, Rubio spokeswoman Brooke Sammon praised Florida Health Choices
as a good alternative to Affordable Care Act regulations.
are no mandates, trillions in new spending, or bureaucratic rules to
come between patients and their doctors," Sammon said. "At a time when
Floridians are suffering under the many consequences of Obamacare's
failures, it's encouraging to see a voluntary, market-based program like
this continue to move forward."
Naff said the program has no plans to seek additional money from the state.
Health Choices) has not submitted a budget request nor do we expect to
request one," Naff said. "When the Marketplace is open the FHC will earn
a surcharge on products and services sold that will not exceed 2.5
(percent) and is intended to fund future operations."
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