Saturday, December 16, 2017
Health

Pinellas House members say they would pay more for health insurance

ST. PETERSBURG — Three Pinellas County legislators who voted against accepting federal Medicaid money defended their heavily subsidized state health plans Tuesday but said they were open to footing more of the bill.

Reps. Larry Ahern, Ed Hooper and Kathleen Peters were among eight Pinellas legislators grilled Tuesday by members of Suncoast Tiger Bay. The three receive health insurance for $8.34 a month but voted against accepting billions of dollars in additional federal health care aid for poor Floridians.

The Tampa Bay Times noted the awkward juxtaposition in a Tuesday story.

"I don't mind paying more for that insurance," Ahern told a Times reporter after the 90-minute luncheon at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater Hotel.

House members pay $8.34 a month for individual health insurance, or $30 a month to cover a family. That's one-sixth of what members of the Senate and most state employees pay.

Taxpayers pay nearly $600 a month to cover each individual House member, according to the state. Lois Fries, a 73-year-old Democrat from Largo, seized on that and asked, "How do you justify that hypocrisy without expanding Medicaid?"

Ahern and Hooper, R-Clearwater, pointed to the national debt, saying Florida could not rely on the federal government. Peters, R-South Pasadena, stressed she voted against the Medicaid expansion alternative because there was never a focus on how it would work, not because of the federal money.

As far as her own health insurance, Peters noted that House members only make about $29,000 a year. Still, she said their low premiums are "not fair and equitable" compared with what state workers and others pay for health insurance.

In 2012, Florida senators agreed to increase premiums they pay to match most state employees. No one has explained why the House declined to follow the Senate.

"There just wasn't time to address every important issue that we had to deal with," Hooper said in an interview, blaming in part the Medicaid debate. Hooper said he would vote for a higher premium if there's a movement to "jack it up."

Aside from the health care debate, lawmakers talked about the $74.5 billion state budget and ribbed each other about who had the most hometown projects. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, joked that a Florida TaxWatch report on budget "turkeys," or wasteful projects, will have a chapter on Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.

There was also an allusion to "Mary," the robotic House auto-reader that sped through legislative text for hours when Democrats forced all bills to be read in full. The time-killing move was in protest of House Republicans opposing Medicaid expansion.

"You guys disrespected (House Speaker Will Weatherford) with your trick of reading the bills on the floor," Hooper said. "He was hurt by that, and I think he certainly had a right to be hurt, and I wish that hadn't happened."

"I'm sorry, that's a good one," said an unrepentant Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg.

Comments
Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Shrieks of laughter echoed off the walls of the hospital as Thunder the mini pig flopped onto his side and the children huddled around him, scratching his pink, hairy belly. He and his wet-nosed partner, Bolt, drew patients in wheelchairs and bandage...
Published: 12/15/17
Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Today is the day that open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act will close for most people. But those affected by the slew of hurricanes that pummelled Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and other states earlier this year can take advantage of a two-week ...
Published: 12/15/17
City Council sinks deal to alter ownership of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg

City Council sinks deal to alter ownership of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — After months of tense negotiations and weeks of political impasse, the City Council on Thursday derailed a proposal that would have changed the ownership structure of the city’s largest hospital, Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.The 5-...
Published: 12/14/17
Florida hospitals call for more funding in effort to address looming doctor shortage

Florida hospitals call for more funding in effort to address looming doctor shortage

The number of doctors practicing in Florida has not kept up with the state’s surging population growth, and more money is needed to recruit and keep them here, hospital leaders said Wednesday.The shortage is particularly acute in four speciality area...
Published: 12/13/17
An overlooked epidemic: Older Americans taking too many unneeded drugs

An overlooked epidemic: Older Americans taking too many unneeded drugs

Consider it America’s other prescription drug epidemic.For decades, experts have warned that older Americans are taking too many unnecessary drugs, often prescribed by multiple doctors, for dubious or unknown reasons. Researchers estimate that 25 per...
Published: 12/13/17
How is Florida’s health? Not so great, report says

How is Florida’s health? Not so great, report says

Florida slightly improved its national standing this year, rising from 36th to 32nd overall in the annual America’s Health Rankings report. But the takeaway for the nation’s third-largest state is that it has a long way to go in many important health...
Published: 12/12/17
Driven by demand, Planned Parenthood opens second clinic in Tampa

Driven by demand, Planned Parenthood opens second clinic in Tampa

The floor-to-ceiling glass windows are heavily tinted and the inside is hidden behind rows of curtains. Security cameras monitor every corner, and only patients with an appointment and valid identification can pass through the intentionally cramped e...
Published: 12/12/17
Video: Jimmy Kimmel holds his baby son, post-heart surgery, in emotional health-care monologue

Video: Jimmy Kimmel holds his baby son, post-heart surgery, in emotional health-care monologue

Jimmy Kimmel was absent from his ABC late-night show last week while his 8-month-old son, Billy, recovered from his second heart surgery. Ever since Billy was born with a heart defect and required immediate surgery, Kimmel has become an outspoken adv...
Published: 12/12/17
Record numbers are signing up for Obamacare in Florida as enrollment period draws to a close

Record numbers are signing up for Obamacare in Florida as enrollment period draws to a close

With just four days left to enroll for health insurance on the federal exchange, advocates for the Affordable Care Act say Florida is headed for a record-breaking year. In week five of the six-week open enrollment period, about 823,180 people signed ...
Published: 12/12/17
A boy shares the pain of being bullied - inspiring thousands to show him love (w/video)

A boy shares the pain of being bullied - inspiring thousands to show him love (w/video)

While fighting back tears, young Keaton Jones couldn’t stop asking one question: Why?"Just out of curiosity, why do they bully? What’s the point of it?" he asks his mother while in the passenger seat of a parked car. "Why do you find joy in taking in...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17