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Friday, Nov 28, 2014
Commentary

Sabotage afoot in Capitol

Special to The Tampa Tribune
Published:

Once again, extremists in the Florida Legislature quietly are trying to sabotage the new federal health care law.  Sadly, moves like this are becoming the norm in our state's Capitol. Manipulating laws and rejecting much-needed federal funding is becoming the name of the game in Tallahassee.

Most recently, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1842, which is now sitting on the governor's desk and awaiting his signature. 

This legislation will remove the authority of Florida's insurance regulator to approve, modify or reject rate hikes by health insurance companies for the next two years — effectively deregulating health insurers and allowing them to raise prices and gouge consumers at will. And, it conveniently allows officials and insurance companies to blame any rate hikes on the Affordable Care Act.

To eliminate the Florida insurance commissioner's authority to turn down rate increases is unbelievable and unconscionable.  Florida had some of the strongest protections in the country, and to take them away like this makes absolutely no sense.

That's why, last week, I wrote a letter to the governor urging him to veto this bill.  But given the governor's recent decision to return $1 million in federal funding that would have helped the state cover the cost of overseeing insurance rates under the new health care law, and the fact that he has not even applied for another $5 million in federal funding that is available to help states control their insurance markets, I'm not holding my breath.

An equally unsettling move came earlier this month when the state refused to expand Medicaid to some 1.2 million poor and disabled Floridians who would have received health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  Unless the governor calls lawmakers back for a special session to remedy this callous decision, Florida will lose out on about $51 billion in federal funding it would have otherwise received. 

Instead, Floridians' tax dollars will continue flowing to other states to pay for expanded Medicaid programs elsewhere — with no benefit to the residents of our state.

And as a result, we will continue to pay more taxes and higher insurance premiums to cover the expensive, uncompensated emergency care for those who cannot afford insurance coverage. 

Clearly, it's time elected officials in Florida started looking out for the people they are supposed to be representing.


Bill Nelson is Florida’s senior U.S. senator and a former Florida state treasurer and insurance commissioner.

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