Issues of Interest

HEALTH CARE EXCHANGE The second enrollment period for HealthCare.gov opened on November 15th.  In Florida, fourteen companies offer medical insurance plans.  Thus far, approximately one-half of the enrollees are returning customers.  The deadline for obtaining coverage effective January 1st was December 15th, but consumers have until February 15th to elect coverage starting at a later date.

MEDICAID EXPANSION A coalition of business groups including Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Hospital Association are promoting the expansion of Medicaid by creating a private insurance marketplace. The proposal, entitled “A Healthy Florida Works,” would largely be funded with federal dollars but needs federal and state approval. State lawmakers have rejected expansion in recent years. Senator Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) is pushing for a plan considered by the Senate last year. For more information about the proposal, go to this link.

MEDICAL TOURISM VISIT Florida has announced a new grant program to help businesses attract medical tourism to the State.  The $2.5 million program, which will be matched dollar for dollar by private funding, will place emphasis on (1) medical tourism destination promotion, and (2) medical meetings and training promotion.

STADIUM PROJECTS As reported in previous editions, the Department of Economic Opportunity is distributing $7 million in sales tax rebates for sports stadium projects.  Four qualifying applicants have applied, including the Miami Dolphins, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Daytona International Speedway, and Orlando’s Major League Soccer franchise.

GULF RESTORATION Governor Scott has requested $77 million in funds from BPs settlement under the federal RESTORE Act of 2012. The funds will be administered through the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. The money would finance five Gulf restoration projects in Florida and target 10 major watersheds.  Possible projects are located in the Tampa Bay Watershed, the Pensacola Bay Watershed, Suwannee River Watershed and the Apalachicola Bay Watershed.

GULF ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFIT FUND Florida received more grant money on November 17th in a second set of conservation grants from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, bringing the total amount to $50 million. The Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund was created after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill as a settlement between the U.S. government, BP and Transocean. The additional $34.3 million will fund many projects throughout the state including studying the recovery of fisheries, the Florida Shorebird Conservation project and oyster habitat restoration in Saint Andrews Bay.

FCAT REPLACEMENT Despite concerns from teachers and school superintendents across the state, the new Florida assessment test will be implemented as scheduled in the spring of 2015. Concerns revolve around the computer skills necessary to take the exam. Previous exams required students to mostly point and click a mouse. The new assessment requires typing, a skill some teachers feel their students are ill-equipped to do.

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