THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA: Health Choices — Hire CEO by November

Sep 22, 2009

This article was published by THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA on September 22, 2009.


THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, SEPT. 21, 2009…The board overseeing a legislatively-created health insurance venture hopes to have a top executive hired in November as it attempts to create a marketplace of options for employers who can’t afford to offer workers more traditional coverage.

A year after being created by lawmakers, Florida Health Choices has yet to result in the sale of any policies. Instead, board members are sifting through applicants to lead the entity, which backers say will provide less expensive and innovative health insurance options by letting market forces work with a minimum of government mandates.

Meeting Monday in Orlando, board members led by former state Rep. Aaron Bean mapped out a timetable they hope will result in the hiring of a chief executive officer by November.

“If we don’t do it, it ain’t going to get done,” Bean said. “We want it done.”

Federal officials are wrangling over their own health insurance options as President Barack Obama fights with Republicans and some Democrats in Congress over a national plan. Among the options floated is allowing states to create “exchanges” to bring buyers and sellers together, a similarity not lost on Bean, who championed Health Choices in the House when it was created in 2008.

“Holy Cow, they’re talking about what we’ve created down here in Florida.,” Bean said.

The panel, which advertised the position on CareerBuilder and, has received applications from 40 candidates to head the newly created corporation. Of those, a dozen or so seem qualified, on paper at least, for a job that would pay between $80,000 and $140,000 a year.

The board hopes to interview two to five candidates at its Oct. 30 meeting after an initial group is vetted by a search committee. Until then, the board has hired lobbyist Lauren McCarthy on a part time basis to get the organization up and running.

Making the decision more difficult is the uncertainty in the insurance market. With federal lawmakers talking about a major overhaul of health care coverage options, the state is trying to create its own marketplace that may not comply with emerging law.

“We fit in very snugly within (current federal law,)” Bean said. “Any changes to the federal rules will have a significant effect on the ongoing operation of our corporation. It could go both ways.”

Unable to reach consensus on how to address the millions of Floridians who remain uninsured, the Republican-led Legislature in 2008 approved a measure that combined a plan called Cover Florida that was backed by Gov. Charlie Crist with the Health Choices program favored by the Florida House.

Lawmakers set aside $1.5 million to get the program off the ground. To date, Health Choices has yet to sell a policy.
Cover Florida – Crist’s plan – has so far signed up fewer than 5,000 policyholders who pay average monthly premiums of $51 for preventative and $150 a month for high deductible catastrophic coverage offered by a limited number of companies.