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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

State Rep. Chris Sprowls seeks to save children's insurance plan



State Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, wants to bring back a popular health insurance plan for Florida kids.

The plan, known as Sunshine Health Stars Plus, covered nearly 10,000 children across the state, some of whom had special needs and were unable to get coverage elsewhere. Their families made too much money to qualify for government-subsidized health insurance, and so agreed to pay the full premiums.

The cost: $284 per month, or $299 with dental benefits.

Despite its popularity, the plan was cancelled last year, after the public-private organization Florida Healthy Kids said it had become too expensive to offer. Plan administrators blamed the Affordable Care Act, which ushered in regulations that mandated more benefits and abolished spending limits on essential health benefits for children. 

The move left thousands of families searching for an alternative.

(A full-pay plan with lower premiums but higher deductibles and co-pays called Sunshine Health Stars is still offered, as are the program's government-subsidized offerings, which were exempt from the requirements as part of the Children's Health Insurance Program.)

Last week, Sprowls sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, explaining what had happened to the Stars Plus plan. In the letter, he asked Price to consider exempting the plan from some of ACA's requirements so that Healthy Kids could "continue to offer quality, affordable care to the children of Florida."

"My goal is to make sure that children in Florida always have access to health care through quality, affordable health insurance," Sprowls wrote. "Florida's 'full-pay' option accomplishes that goal."

Healthy Kids CEO Rebecca Matthews said her team was also working with federal health officials to "see what we can do."

"We're thankful the representative kick-started this for us," she said.

[Last modified: Friday, March 17, 2017 7:39pm]


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