Friday, December 15, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Vindictive health care bill targets consumers

The federal health care reform law has withstood a court challenge and a presidential election, but the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature is still battling it. A bill that would allow health insurers to charge whatever they want, no matter how unreasonable, and blame the Affordable Care Act is on Gov. Rick Scott's desk. Its transparent intent is to infuriate Floridians over increases in health insurance costs and misdirect their anger toward the federal law. Scott should veto this vindictive and partisan bill, and voters should remember if the governor chooses politics over consumer protections for Florida families.

Republican lawmakers continue to punch at the federal law whenever they can. The House turned its back on $52 billion in federal money and refused to expand Medicaid, a central protection under the federal law. That means nearly a million poor Floridians will be denied health insurance that would have been paid for entirely by the federal government for the first three years, and Washington would always pay at least 90 percent of the cost. Scott and the Legislature also refused to set up an online health insurance exchange for Floridians to choose their health coverage, leaving that job to the federal government. The latest wrinkle is SB 1842, which temporarily strips away protections that prevent consumers from being gouged by health insurers.

The Office of Insurance Regulation would no longer have the authority to approve, modify or reject proposed rate increases for small group and individual health insurance plans in 2014 and 2015. This would not apply to "grandfathered" policies that were in effect as of 2010. In a letter to Scott urging a veto, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat and former state insurance commissioner, warned the bill would result in rate increases ranging from 10 percent to 70 percent. Florida would be transformed from a national model of oversight of health insurers to a state that has declared open season on consumers.

Lawmakers say they are temporarily letting the federal government regulate health insurance rates during the first years of the federal online exchanges. But the Affordable Care Act gives the federal government the power to only object to unreasonable rates, not reject them. For two years, health insurers would be unconstrained.

To direct anger for the rate increases toward federal health reform, the bill requires insurers to tell policyholders how much of their monthly premium is traced to the Affordable Care Act. That information would be broken down for maximum effect. Consumers would be told how much of the premium charged is attributable to the law's requirement that people with pre-existing conditions be covered without being charged higher rates. They would be told the dollar amount of the premium attributable to any fees or taxes in the law, as well as other breakdowns. What will be missing is an explanation of the law's positives, such as providing millions of uninsured Americans with health coverage and banning insurers from excluding those with pre-existing conditions.

Despite Scott's strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act, he has shown he can be reasonable, such as by supporting the expansion of Medicaid. Scott has until June 5 to decide to let this bill become law or veto it. His decision will indicate whether he is willing to put politics aside to stand with Florida's families.

Comments
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s 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 won’t 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