Elected officials abandoned consumers on Obamacare

Published Aug. 10, 2013

Strange, but consumers getting ripped off may not be the worst part of what you are about to read.

It's true your health insurance rates could go higher than necessary because the state's insurance commissioner no longer has the authority to stop them, but that almost becomes incidental to the larger issue.

And the fact that folks in other states have seen significant drops in rates because their officials did their jobs and negotiated with insurers, seems merely annoying.

No, I'd say the worst part of this story — the part that should make you tremble with anger — is that your elected officials did this to you. And they did it on purpose.

That would include your state Senate. That would include your state House.

And that would include your governor.

In case you missed the headlines, your leaders recently decided that the state insurance commissioner's power to negotiate rates should be suspended for the next two years. Now, monitoring rates is a large part of the commissioner's job, so it's not like this was some insignificant procedural move.

So why was it done?

Well, upon signing this ridiculous piece of legislation, Gov. Rick Scott suggested it made sense for legislators to hand over review of rates to the federal government during the first two years of the Affordable Care Act.

I see two ways of deciphering that explanation: Either your elected officials are ignorant, or their excuse is a load of hooey.

I'm going with hooey.

First of all, the federal government does not have the authority to negotiate rates. That has always been the state's function.

So that means your politicians were essentially letting insurers set their own prices, with the only caveat being the Obamacare mandate that 80 percent of fees go toward medical care.

Considering how lawmakers scream about less federal regulation and more state autonomy, it seems ludicrous they would voluntarily sign away the right to protect you from indecent health insurance hikes.

Unless (insert evil grin) they wanted the rates to go up.

"The state Legislature and Gov. Scott have put their ideology and dislike of health care laws over the best interests of all our neighbors,'' said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa. "What they've done is really unconscionable. It's like taking cops off their beat.''

Not convinced? Then consider this little gem.

Recently, a few legislators requested utility companies be required to itemize nuclear cost fees on electric bills. These fees are easily calculated and quite relevant since consumers are getting zero return on their dollars.

That suggestion was quickly shot down.

Yet Gov. Scott is now requiring insurers to itemize how much new policies have risen because of Obamacare, even though it's an impossible calculation since this health coverage did not exist previously.

Bottom line? No one is saying Republicans have to be cheerleaders for the Affordable Care Act. They are free to grumble about it as much as they like.

But this nonsense is different. It is neither true debate, nor is it constructive.

What has been done by your elected officials in Florida is sabotage.

And the worst part is they don't give a dang that you might be collateral damage.