Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming public opposition. This week, Congress will race to approve an unneeded $1.5 trillion tax cut that primarily benefits businesses and the wealthy. Yet there is no rush to extend two essential programs vital to so many Floridians: federal flood insurance for businesses and homeowners, and health insurance for children from low-income families. Congress should not stop working this week until these real priorities are addressed.

Flood insurance

The National Flood Insurance Program is set to expire Friday, yet Congress remains unable to compromise on a long-term extension of the program that is billions in debt and desperately needs reform. If the program isn’t at least extended this week, home sales in flood-prone areas would be stalled throughout Tampa Bay and the nation. Home buyers with federally backed mortgages in those areas are required to have flood insurance, and NFIP could not write new policies if Congress does nothing and the program is allowed to expire even for a short time. There is no justification for allowing that to happen.

The problem is too many members of Congress from inland states want residents in coastal states such as Florida — which accounts for more than one-third of all federal flood insurance polices — to shoulder far too much of the burden. The House passed unfair legislation last month that gradually would eliminate subsidized rates and keep premiums rising too high and too fast. Floridians have received just $4.2 billion of the $58 billion in paid flood insurance claims over the last 40 years, and the notion that this insurance is primarily a sweet deal for wealthy waterfront homeowners is off base. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, notes that about seven of every 10 flood insurance policyholders in his Pinellas district live in homes that are not on the water and have average values of $190,000.

The long-term answer for overhauling flood insurance involves updating and detailing flood maps, fairly spreading the risk and stopping multiple claims on properties that should be elevated or bought and razed. The best short-term answer this week likely is to extend the flood insurance program as it is and try again next year.

Children’s Health Insurance Program

Florida is among at least 16 states expected to run out of federal money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program by the end of January, which threatens health coverage for about 215,000 kids in this state. Congress failed to reauthorize the program before the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, and states have made do with the federal money on hand. Now the clock is running out, and so is the money.

Low-income families should not have to worry whether health care for their kids will disappear next month, and those children should not be pawns in a partisan fight in Congress. Ideally, Congress would approve Senate legislation this week that would steer more than $100 billion over five years to CHIP. If Congress can approve tax cuts that would add nearly $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit, surely it can spend a fraction of that amount to keep health insurance for kids from low-income families and worry about paying for it later.

Yet the reality is Congress is consumed with tax cuts and unlikely to make a long-term commitment to CHIP. At the very least, enough money should be allocated to CHIP to ensure states have the cash to keep the program running through the first three months of 2018. No one should leave Washington for Christmas without resolving this issue and easing the minds of parents desperate to maintain access to health care for their kids.

Comments
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18