State Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach (Pic by Meredith Geddings, via myfloridahouse.gov)

State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, and Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, have introduced legislation that would set up a Florida health insurance exchange as required by federal law. So far, the GOP-led Legislature and the governor have done little-to-nothing to follow the federal health care reform law’s requirement.

Senate Bill 1640 and House Bill 1423 would provide the intent to “establish a state-level health benefits exchange by a certain date; providing minimum functions for such exchange; establishing the Florida Health Benefits Exchange Legislative Study Committee to consider and make recommendations regarding the establishment of the exchange; providing that the act is null and void if that part of federal law requiring an exchange is repealed or replaced.”

Just this week, the government released a report documenting the progress 28 states and the District of Columbia have made in creating their state health insurance exchanges. The study noted that Florida is one of two states that has refused to even use a $1 million federal grant to begin planning for and researching an exchange.

Florida is currently leading the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to begin hearing the challenge this March. In the meantime, Gov. Rick Scott has said he does not believe the health care reform is “the law of the land,” and will not implement it until the U.S. Supreme Court decides to uphold the law.

State legislators have also decided to not move on implementing the law. So far, lawmakers have not held any meetings to discuss creating an exchange. The Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy released a report a couple weeks ago warning state officials that delaying implementation of federally mandated health policy changes could “compound” the challenges they might already face.

States will have to prove to the federal government by January 2013 that they will have a functioning state exchange by 2014. If they cannot, the Affordable Care Act requires that the federal government come in and create an exchange in place of the state.

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