Fla. Gov. Participates in Pensacola Meeting As Part of Discussion on HSA’s

July 16, 2004

Gov. Jeb Bush and Floridians for Health Care Choices hosted a town
hall meeting on Thursday to provide an opportunity for federal and state healthcare experts to educate employers and employees on the benefits of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). HSAs provide Florida’s consumers with an option to save money for medical expenses tax-free.

“The interest in health savings accounts – from employers, employees and health insurers – demonstrates the potential this new healthcare option can have in beginning to transform our health insurance market,” said the Governor. “Moving to a consumer driven market will help increase the quality of care and create cost savings by putting patients in charge of their health care dollars. Patients will make choices best suited to their medical and financial needs, creating an incentive for doctors and hospitals to offer the best service for the most reasonable prices. I thank all those who have helped in educating Floridians about HSAs.”

Governor Bush was joined by Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Tom Gallagher who along with Lt. Governor Toni Jennings, co-chaired the Governor’s Task Force on Affordable Healthcare Insurance.

“I applaud the Governor’s push to make Florida a leader in offering small employers and their employees access to tax-advantaged health savings accounts. These accounts will help Floridians pay for out-of-pocket health costs with pre-tax dollars and empower them to make wise financial decisions about their medical care,” said Gallagher. “In addition to offering another option for Floridians seeking health care coverage, these accounts will be attractive to young, healthy individuals who often choose to go without insurance which will in turn help lower overall costs in the market.”

HSAs reportedly improve access to affordable health care while empowering consumers to invest in health care savings. HSAs consist of a high deductible health plan and a tax-free savings account.

Employee contributions to an HSA account belong to the employee, as does any potential employer contribution to the HSA. The dollars in the HSA account can be spent by the consumer – tax-free – on any eligible health care expense. Funds that are not used remain in the account and grow tax deferred. After age 65, the funds can be used, without penalty, for anything – just like an IRA. The money and interest in the account is transferable between jobs and to different

Last month, Governor Bush signed House Bill 1629, the Affordable Healthcare for Floridians Act, which provides increased access to health care insurance by reportedly creating a more stable and competitive market, raises the quality of care and patient safety and improves transparency by giving consumers the information they need to make better health care choices.

Also joining Governor Bush on Thursday were Bill Sweetnam, benefits tax council, Office of Tax Policy, U.S. Department of Treasury; Alan Levine, secretary, Florida Agency for Health Care Administration; Lisa Miller, deputy director of insurance regulation, Florida Office of Insurance Regulation; Dennis Taylor, chair of health care committee, Pensacola Chamber of Commerce; and Laurel Call, vice president, Assurant Health. Floridians for Health Care Choices, a coalition sponsored by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, The National Federation of Independent Business, the Florida Retail Federation and
Florida’s leading insurers, aimed at promoting new and affordable health care options for employers and employees, is sponsoring town hall meetings throughout the state.

Meetings have already been held in St. Petersburg, Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and now in Pensacola.

They are the first in a series scheduled across the state this summer to educate Floridians on the benefits of HSA and HRA policies and regulations.

For more information on the Affordable Healthcare for Floridians Act or the Governor’s Task Force on Access to Affordable Insurance, visit www.myflorida.com.

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