Hillsborough Commission Removes Criminal Record Qualifications From County Health Care Plan

The recent half-cent rise in sales tax in Hillsborough County is already being put to work for local residents. Local residents who have three-strikes on their criminal record will be some of the first to benefit from the hike in sales tax. Hillsborough County's new Director of Health Care Services, Gene Earley, and his staff audited the health plan and are making immediate changes.

In a recent article by the Tampa Bay Times, local residents were notified that their chance to qualify for Hillsborough's Indigent Health Care Plan that was enacted in 2005 may have just increased. Residents who have three-strikes on their criminal record will no longer be denied eligibility for the health plan. The three-strike policy was one set in place by former Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman, in order to cut costs in relation to the health plan. This was a controversial decision that was met with negative feedback from county residents, and led to an average of 50 residents losing coverage per year since the policy was set in place.

Another change to the eligibility requirements is the margin to the poverty line one must be living in to qualify. Previously an applicant would be required to be living at or below 125% of the federal poverty line, but will now qualify if they are living at or below 138% of that figure. This is only the beginning of the commission's plan to support the health services paid for by the small tick in sales tax. Another motion by the commission is to add basic vision to the plan. These changes are all set to take effect on March 15 of 2019.

Some might wonder why this is a positive change. An example that may shed light would be the one-time violent offender vs the three-time felon with crimes that are victimless. If someone goes to jail for murder and serves 30 years in prison and is released on parole, they would be eligible for Hillsborough's health plan. If that same felon committed another violent crime, and did his prison sentence and was released again, he or she would still be eligible for the plan, because it's only their second offense. If someone has three third-degree felonies (which are typically victimless and drug-related), they would not qualify for Hillsborough Health Care Plan, before these changes take place on March 15.

After Earley's staff investigated the current policy, they discovered it was the only health care policy in the country that included an eligibility requirement in relation to a criminal record. These changes will result in approximately 1,760 more residents being able to qualify for the sought after health care plan.

(Sources: Tampa Bay Times)

-Marc Charles for Money Talk 1010AM