Florida legislators are considering a proposal that would allow faculty and other employees at the state’s 28 colleges to join the health insurance program used by rank-and-file state workers. Currently, faculty and employees at state universities are part of the state group health insurance program, but those at state colleges are not included.
The proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2024-2025, backed by the Senate, includes this provision. The move was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee as part of an education budget bill. Senate Budget Chief Doug Broxson stated that the proposal is seen as a matter of fairness, with state colleges being asked to be treated the same as state universities. The bill would allow state colleges to apply to join the state group insurance program by August 1 and require employee enrollment to commence before July 31, 2025.
However, the House does not currently have a similar proposal, so negotiations between the chambers will be necessary during the final month of the Session. Rep. Tom Leek, the House Appropriations Committee Chair, expressed concerns about the overall solvency of the state group health insurance program, as estimates suggest adding state college employees could cost anywhere from $80 million to $380 million.
Current spending on the state group health insurance program is approximately $3 billion, with the majority of the cost being covered by the state and not from employee premiums. The Senate’s proposed spending plan for FY 2024-2025 includes $45.96 billion in health care spending across the state’s various health care agencies, nearly $15.84 billion of which is in state dollars. The House Appropriations Committee also passed its proposed budget, which includes $45.98 billion for health care services, with nearly $15.83 billion coming from state tax dollars.
Apart from the proposed spending plans, legislative efforts have also focused on increasing the graduate medical education opportunities and raising Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals and physicians. Legislators will work to reconcile the varying health care spending plans in the coming weeks.
In addition to the health insurance proposal, other priorities for the Florida Legislature include changes to the claims bill process to raise sovereign immunity limits, requirements for telehealth practices, and updates to state insurance code to ensure adequate coverage and prior authorization for dental services. The Florida Dental Association, Florida Hospital Association, and Florida Medical Association have all lobbied for these changes.
Furthermore, the legislative session has seen debates over new licensure criteria for dental therapists, increased penalties for fentanyl exposure, and the establishment of new health care facilities. These discussions and proposals reflect the ongoing efforts in the Legislature to address various health care issues affecting the state.
As the Florida Legislature continues its deliberations, it remains to be seen how these proposed changes in health care policy and legislation will impact the state’s health care system and its residents.