GatorCare swamped by governor

Apr 20, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Current on April 20, 2012:

GatorCare swamped by governor

By Christine Jordan Sexton

Gov. Rick Scott on late Friday nixed a bill that would have allowed the University of Florida to move its employees out of the state group health insurance plan and develop its own self insured plan called GatorCare.

Scott’s Friday  veto letter commends the university for seeking out cost efficient health care options for its employees but the governor notes in his veto letter that he must “balance the financial interests of the university against the financial interests of the other universities and state agencies participating in the state employee health insurance program.”

The Department of Management Services in a memo to the governor in late March said moving 10,000 university professors out of the state health insurance plan could have a $12 million hit on the trust fund that is used to pay the bills. That’s because the bill required active professors to be shifted from the state group plan but the shift from the state group plan to GatorCare was only optional for retirees, who generally require more health care and  therefore cost more.

In the March memo the department also expressed concerns that if UF was given the green light to carve its employees out other universities, especially those with medical schools and teaching hospitals such as the University of South Florida, would follow suit.

Those concerns are expressed in the veto letter.

Scott encourages the University of Florida and “any other state university that may be interested in implementing a separate health insurance plan” to work with his office to determine whether the plans are cost efficient and, if so, “to develop a fair and equitable transition plan that addresses the impacts on the universities, the state agencies, the employees, and Florida taxpayers.”

The move to establish GatorCare comes at a time when the state employee trust fund is projected to have a $301 million deficit by the middle of 2014. It also seemingly came out of the blue as the provision was included in HB 5009 during the last week of session in the midst of budget negotiations.

Even after being agreed to by the House and Senate budget negotiators the measure nearly died late in the session. While the House passed the measure by a comfortable 115-1 margin the bill actually died on a tie 20-20 vote in the Senate.It was then reconsidered where it passed by a 21-18 margin. 

Attempts to reach University of Florida Vice President of Human Resources Paula Fussell on Friday were unsuccessful. Fussell told The Florida Current earlier this month that the goal was to have all the university employees and those associated with the university in a self-insured plan that can be controlled at the local level by UF and not in Tallahassee. 

Although the state group insurance benefit plan is considered better than other employer sponsored coverage, Fussell said the goal was for GatorCare benefits to meet or exceed the state group plan.

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