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Sun Sentinel: Health care exchange program would help Florida economy

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Julio Fuentes

As the president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I speak to business owners and leaders every day, and I’ve heard their concerns over health care coverage in our state. Business owners are suffering from rising health insurance premiums and communities are struggling to care for their uninsured neighbors.

It is for these reasons the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce decided to stand with A Healthy Florida Works, a coalition of more than 700 businesses, 20 local chambers of commerce, statewide business associations and 112,000 concerned individuals. We want to bring the tax dollars we sent to Washington, D.C., back to Florida to extend health care coverage to approximately 1 million uninsured Floridians.

Extending health care coverage will benefit every Florida family, including those in our Hispanic community, and it will also help Florida businesses. Right now, it’s business owners who are bearing the heavy financial burden that pays for the cost of uncompensated care in our state. Health insurance premiums rise each year, and it is stifling the recovery and growth of our small business owners.

By extending health care coverage, we can save our businesses billions of dollars in annual health care costs, spur job creation and keep the economic engine of Florida’s small and large businesses running.

Florida’s business community has been united in our urgent call to action, and the Florida Senate has responded. The proposed Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange Program that has been passing through Senate committees is the health care coverage fix Florida businesses need. This free-market, Medicaid alternative creates a private option plan that masterfully blends consumer choice, personal responsibility and taxpayer protections. It is also a plan that will help lift the weight of rising health care costs off the shoulders of our state’s employers.

The FHIX program is more than good policy, it will have real impacts on the lives of Floridians. One million more people will receive the health care they need, and businesses across the state will finally realize a stabilization in health care costs.

On behalf of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 38 chapters and more than 80,000 minority-owned small businesses, we applaud the Senate for their bold leadership on this critical issue. We look forward to working with the full Legislature to find a way to extend health care coverage in Florida. It is the right thing to do for our state, our business and our citizens.

Julio Fuentes is the president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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