Friday, December 15, 2017
Politics

Romano: Is anticonsumer insurance law just designed to damage Obamacare?

Listen long enough, and you're sure to hear two familiar promises from your elected heroes in Tallahassee.

No. 1: They will fight would-be robber barons trying to pick our pockets.

No. 2: They won't let pencil-pushers in Washington tell us what's best for Florida.

To be fair, most state officials are probably sincere about both promises. Right up until the moment it becomes inconvenient, and then they sell you down the river.

That's what makes Senate Bill 1842 such a marvelous piece of legislation. It breaks both promises at the same time and still claims to have your best interests at heart.

Here's the basic premise of the bill that Gov. Rick Scott managed to sign without twirling an imaginary mustache on Friday:

For a two-year window, starting next January, the state is suspending the Office of Insurance Regulation's ability to control rate increases for health insurance policies that were obtained after 2010.

I'm no expert, but that doesn't sound very consumer-friendly, does it?

Health care is already too expensive for millions of Floridians, and now your state lawmakers think it's a good idea to allow insurance companies to name their price?

What could possibly be the rationale for that?

Glad you asked.

Legislators explained that with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, this whole health insurance business is getting complicated. So instead of putting the onus on the state's insurance regulators, they're going to leave it up to the federal government.

Sweet, right?

All we've heard from Republicans is that the federal government was too involved in health care, and states should be allowed to implement their own plans.

Yet given the opportunity to have the Office of Insurance Regulation monitor rates — which is part of the office's stinking mission statement — our friends in Tallahassee have decided your insurance costs will be better monitored through the Health and Human Services office in D.C.

This would be hilarious if it wasn't so dangerous.

"To eliminate the Florida insurance commissioner's authority to turn down rate increases is unbelievable and unconscionable," U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson wrote to Scott in a recent letter.

Granted, the state's insurance office doesn't have the greatest reputation. One need only look at the number of fly-by-night property insurance companies that have gone belly-up as detailed in a Times/Herald report on Monday to understand that.

But shouldn't the solution be to hold the state insurance commissioner's office accountable instead of pretending it doesn't exist? That's like saying the FBI is now in charge around here because the local cops don't understand all the new laws.

The cynical view is that Republicans actually want your insurance rates to go up. If that happens, they conveniently blame Obamacare.

It won't matter that state legislators turned down billions of dollars in safety net care, failed to set up the health insurance exchange, failed to regulate rates or do anything else to ensure that Floridians get quality health care at a decent price. It will all be the fault of Obamacare.

Just keep that in mind the next time you hear a politician say he or she has your best interests at heart. You may want to check your wallet before they get out of sight.

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