Monday, September 30, 2013

What's wrong with Florida Politicians?

Florida State Flag
Welcome to the first issue of "The FLAP", which is short for "The Florida Politician."  Being a resident of Florida, I am interested in the activities of politicians in our state.  Most of those activities are noteworthy and certainly have the potential to affect our daily lives as citizens of this fine state.

In today's post, I would like to look at two issues that are currently affecting the lives of residents who are sick, unemployed, homeless, disabled, in poverty and anyone who cannot survive without help.  In other words, those people that followers of Jesus would say require our charity, help and love.

The first issue concerns expanded medicaid.  With the arrival of medical care under the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) in 2014, those states who's legislatures are smart businessmen will see state expenditures for medicaid recipients health insurance coverage erased off their books.  This can save many states tens of billions of dollars of state funds.

Some states with Republican governors and/or legislatures have unfortunately allowed Federal

Republicans to distort their view of the Affordable Care Act benefits to the states and in so doing have done themselves, their state and their citizens a disservice. 

It is just bad business for a state to turn away federal money but that's exactly what some foolish state legislatures are doing.  Let me cite an example with the situation in Florida.

Florida's Governor, Rick Scott originally sided with federal Congressional Republicans and supported the "ObamaCare bad" philosophy.  But when Governor Scott began to investigate the advantages of 
implementing expanded medicaid in Florida, he changed his mind.  Unfortunately, most of the GOP in the Florida legislature didn't have the wisdom or understanding that Scott had and now it looks as though Florida will not implement expanded medicaid.

Florida is currently funding medicaid for 3.3 million recipients at a cost of $21 billion a year before ObamaCare.  Half of this cost is shared with the federal government.  Although the intentions of the Florida legislature may have been to not become a partner with the federal government (because ObamaCare is a Democrat idea), they already are partners with them.  So to bite off their own noses to spite their faces, the Republicans in the Florida legislature are willing to give up about $10.5 billion dollars of federal assistance to make an empty gesture of solidarity that will cost Florida tax payers billions.

Under ObamaCare, medicaid's expansion would give health coverage to unemployed persons and people who cannot afford health insurance and are not covered by any company health insurance plan or medicaid recipient class today.  Florida would have been able to add this class of recipient for no additional cost under ObamaCare for the first three years of implementation.  After that, the State would only bear 10% of medicaid costs, which is still a bargain since they are currently paying 50% of the cost. 

When individuals do not have insurance and go to a hospital for medical care, they often go to the emergency room.  Emergency room costs are very high.  Since uninsured patients usually cannot pay their medical bill, hospitals will file with insurance companies and insurance companies will pass that cost along to the rest of us in increased insurance premiums.

Hospitals are more likely to be able to increase employment when more people are covered by an insurance plan and are able to receive medical treatment.  It has been agreed by economists and the medical industry itself that implementation of ObamaCare will give the medical industry a windfall in profits that could easily exceed $60-80 billion over ten years.  This should not be overlooked by the party who only thinks about "jobs, jobs, jobs."

Ultimately, Florida would be able to cover more patients for less cost if the legislature would implement expanded medicaid under the Affordable Healthcare Act.  One would think that the legislature would follow the lead of the Governor but it appears Republicans in the legislature are not in any hurry to start worrying about that.  They could have arranged a special session to vote on implementing it, but failed to do so.  

Perhaps they will give it another try in the upcoming months if enough Floridians urge them to.  It just makes good fiscal sense for states to implement the expanded medicaid program.  It is puzzling why some are not. 

The second issue concerns legislation that prevents the Florida Insurance Commissioner from controlling insurance costs under the Affordable Care Act.  

Perhaps you have seen television ads that claim ObamaCare is the cause of run-away insurance premiums that will be affecting many Floridians.  On its surface, that is a truthful statement, or at most a half truth, but the sponsor of the commercials do not tell the full story.  They stop by blaming the Affordable Care Act and that is the lie.  Floridians can actually place the blame for these increased premiums squarely on their Republican led state legislature and Governor Scott.  

When federal Republicans were leading the charge to defund ObamaCare they enlisted their counterparts in Republican led states, like Florida, to pass laws that would contribute to the illusion that ObamaCare would be bad for America.  

The Florida legislature fell right in line and passed a law that stripped the Florida Insurance Commissioner of the ability to review and control insurance rates under ObamaCare.  To their credit Florida Congressional Democrats sought federal government help to resolve this injustice.  

Florida legislators believed they could turn the premium control mechanism over to the federal government.  As it turned out the federal government has no authority under the law to control state insurance premiums.  The Affordable Care law requires states to control premium pricing through their own insurance commissioners.  

What finally happened was Florida passed Senate bill 1842 which among other things gives a two year free-for-all on insurance rates within Florida before the state insurance commissioner can take over rate monitoring under ObamaCare.  

This gives insurance companies participating in the program carte-blanche to charge any premium rate they want without interference by the Insurance commissioner for that two year period, and some of them may do just that.  

The only protection Floridians have against unreasonable rates from insurance companies comes from an element of the Affordable Care Act law which requires rebates to consumers if more than 20% of the premiums charged goes to management and administrative charges.  Good luck proving that. 

So if you require health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and your rates are a lot higher than you expect, blame the Florida legislature and Governor Scott...not ObamaCare.