Florida Low Cost Health Insurance Model Faltering
Florida has been a State notorious for a lack of low-cost health insurance products. Some four years ago at least one major Florida City made a bold move to change that. Jacksonville started the JaxCare Healthcare System. The system was set to provide low cost medical insurance for those who did not qualify for public health insurance programs, but did not earn enough to purchase the private health insurance policies available in the state. At the time many saw the system as a model for providing affordable healthcare insurance for the working poor everywhere. Now as JaxCare is facing financial ruin, they are not so sure.
The program was set up to be a public private sponsorship with the city of Jacksonville itself providing a significant share of funding the low cost medical insurance program for its two year pilot phase. After that, the City Council voted to extend its support for another two years. As enrollment was not as robust as anticipated, and alternate sources of funding the low cost health insurance program had failed to materialize. Now four years alter, the city no longer has any money in its budget to allocate to JaxCare. New enrollments have been curtailed. If alternative funding to take up the cities share is not found the program faces certain extinction.
This does not bode well for individuals such as 35 year old Dwight Gipson who has relied on JaxCare to care for his Diabetes. Prior to having access to low-cost health insurance Gipson says he basically left his diabetes untreated, unable to pay for more than one doctor´s visit each year. Now since having medical coverage, Dwight does more than just try to eat right to deal with his disease. Thanks to the full medical coverage offered by JaxCare, he gets regular doctors checkups and his diabetes is controlled. “Dwight is healthier, he´s happier, he´s in better physical condition, and that, of course, makes for a better employee," said Henry Osborne, his employer. However this may all change if the low cost health insurance plan folds.
Gipson works at a scrap yard and earns $12.00 per hour. The program was formed as public-private partnership to provide a low-cost, managed care health plan for businesses to offer to their low- wage uninsured employees. The plan approved by Florida´s Agency for Health Care Administration offers primary doctors care, prescription coverage, and hospital stays through a network of physicians and five area hospitals.
City Leaders state that the program was never intended to be a city sponsored program indefinitely. Now in light of State mandated budget reductions reducing city revenues by tens of millions of dollars a spokesperson for the Mayors office said, "We had very little choice but to cut JaxCare funding." Expecting the anticipated budget cuts the administrators of the low cost health insurance program say they searched desperately for alternate funding sources. They even lobbied the Federal Government, pushing for federal dollars that would help cover up to 40 percent of operating costs for similar programs geared toward the low income uninsured, yet those efforts proved unsuccessful.
Plans are being debated nationwide to help solve the problems of those without affordable medical insurance. Many of these ideas target small businesses and offer incentives to help them offer low-cost health insurance products to their employees. Poor enrollment and JaxCare's fiscal problems reflect a more fundamental problem. The healthcare plan never really caught on with the city's businesses it was aimed at.