Fla. Highlights ‘Cover the Uninsured Week’

May 10, 2004

Florida’s Department of Financial Services is participating in several events around the state this week in recognition of “Cover the Uninsured Week,” according to Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher.

Gallagher also highlighted new legislation recently passed that will help reduce the costs of coverage and make health insurance more available for Floridians, especially small businesses.

“Covering the more than two million uninsured Floridians is an important challenge for state leaders,” said Gallagher, who served as co-chair of the governor’s task force on health insurance, which made recommendations to lawmakers. “I applaud legislators for taking steps this year to provide more and better access to health insurance coverage for Floridians and their families.”

According to Gallagher, the legislation would make it easier for small businesses to provide coverage to employees and provide increased protections for consumers purchasing “medical discount card” plans for health services and prescription drugs.

The legislation (HB1629), when signed by the governor, will assist Floridians searching for health benefits by:

* Expanding the state’s Health Flex program statewide. This program will help lower-income Floridians gain access to health plans covering basic medical needs and offering preventative care.
* Creating the Small Employers Access Program to allow certain small businesses, rural employers and nursing homes to band together to purchase more affordable healthcare plans.
* Requiring “medical discount card” plans to be licensed by the Office of Insurance Regulation with prior approval of enrollment dues if the cost of the plan is greater than $30 per month or $360 annually. Advertisements are also required to prominently disclose that products offered are not health insurance.
* Promoting increased access to healthcare information to help consumers make informed decisions about medical services.
* Encouraging hospitals to shift non-emergency care from high-cost acute care units, decreasing hospital costs due to over-utilization of emergency room services.

The department is recognizing “Cover the Uninsured Week” statewide, with participation in events in several cities, including Pensacola, Jacksonville, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Miami and Ft. Myers. Representatives from the department will be on hand this week to answer questions on a variety of financial services topics, including health insurance and to highlight the many services offered by the department. For more detailed information on this week’s schedule of events, or for those who are unable to attend, log on to www.fldfs.com .

“I extend my appreciation to the local community groups doing their part to provide health services and insurance information to Floridians,” added Gallagher. “We must continue to support these local efforts, and at the state level, continue to search for innovative solutions to our uninsured problem.”

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