Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crist Likes Obamacare, but He Didn't in 2010 Race; Former Governor Said the Plan 'Taxed Too Much,' but Now He's a Democrat, and Supports It

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crist Likes Obamacare, but He Didn't in 2010 Race; Former Governor Said the Plan 'Taxed Too Much,' but Now He's a Democrat, and Supports It

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Dixon

TALLAHASSEE | A health care program championed by former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is down to less than 2,000 enrollees and is set to formally close up shop in early 2014.

The plan, known as Cover Florida, was a 2008 proposal to expand coverage to Florida's more than 3 million uninsured residents. At its 2010 peak, however, the plan had just 6,385 enrollees. That's 1 percent of the 563,705 hits the Cover Florida website received during its first 12 months.

Cover Florida currently has 1,997 enrollees statewide and the two remaining insurers, including Jacksonville-based Florida Blue, are set to cancel the remaining individual policies in March, state records show.

Of the six original insurers with which the state contracted, four withdrew from the plan or terminated coverage by early 2011.

Crist is now running for governor as a Democrat. He entered the national health care debate recently by announcing his support for the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. It's a plan that Crist opposed in 2010 when running for U.S. Senate as a candidate with no party affiliation.

During a U.S. Senate debate, Crist said Obamacare "taxed too much," an issue he said no longer concerns him.

"I was skeptical of it at first," Crist said Tuesday. "It was a big change ... whenever you have a big change like that, you want to make sure you get a better handle on what it's all about."

So far, only about 3,500 residents have been able to sign up for Affordable Care Act plans. The law has been dogged with website problems and insurers canceling policies that don't meet new requirements. Because Obama initially said people who liked their plans can keep them, Gov. Rick Scott called the president "deceitful" hours before Crist met with reporters.

Cover Florida passed as part of a compromise with the GOP-led Legislature. Lawmakers preferred a plan pushed by Republican House Speaker Marco Rubio, now a member of the U.S. Senate, and state Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican who at the time was a member of the House.

"We were not enamored with his [Crist's] plan, and the Crist administration was not enamored with ours," Bean said. …

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