Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Health care politics vs. reality

First the Republican-controlled House voted for the 40th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act in whole or part. Then as members departed for their August recess, Republicans were handed instructions for an "Obamacare media tour," a negative campaign playbook to follow in their home districts. Yet the truth is the law is already succeeding at improving health care coverage for millions of Americans, and the coming online insurance exchanges will save consumers money in many states. The situation is less certain in Florida, where consumers are paying the price for Republican attempts in Tallahassee to sabotage the law at every turn.

The fight during Congress' August recess will be a battle of stories. Democrats are highlighting how the Affordable Care Act is helping families by creating more access to coverage and better benefits. The Republican playbook recommends bashing the law by citing businesses that have had to cut jobs or limit growth. Yet the law doesn't require small businesses of under 50 employees to provide health coverage, and large businesses won't have to provide coverage until 2015.

Here is how the law is already making a difference in the Tampa Bay area:

• Because insurers may spend no more than 20 percent of premium dollars on profits and administration, insurers rebated more than 900,000 policyholders $47 million in 2011 and 2012, and this summer an additional $54 million will be returned.

• Nearly 50,000 young adults obtained health care coverage because they can now stay on their parents' policies until age 26.

• More than 77,000 seniors received savings on prescription drug costs under Medicare, totalling $100 million in discounts.

Rates for the health insurance that will be offered on the online state exchanges, a place for one-stop shopping for health insurance that will open in October for 2014 coverage, are lower than expected overall. An 11-state analysis by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released in July found that plan costs are on average 18 percent lower than Congressional Budget Office estimates.

That may not be true in Florida, where rates on the online exchange are expected to jump an average of 35 percent, according to an analysis by the state's Office of Insurance Regulation. Florida's congressional Republicans will be making a lot of noise about the price jump. But they should blame fellow party members. The Republican-controlled Legislature suspended for two years the state's ability to control rate increases for health insurance policies. It was a given that rates would soar as a result.

Now it is up to the federal government to force some of the 11 health insurers who will offer plans on Florida's online exchange to bring down premiums or be denied access to the exchange. The state declined to build its own exchange, leaving the job to the federal government. Florida's Republican leaders claim to be standing with the people on health insurance, but they have abandoned to the federal government the job of protecting the state's consumers from being gouged. It's more than a little hypocritical to undercut health care reform at every turn and then complain it isn't working as well as expected.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17