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Confusion as Scott cedes control of health exchanges to feds

Friday, July 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott’s insistence that he will not implement the state health insurance exchanges mandated under the federal health care law doesn’t mean Florida won’t have one.

Instead, it most likely means the federal government will have control over Florida’s exchanges, including how they will operate, what benefits insurers will have to offer and who gets to sell the policies.

While Scott has spent much of the last week on national television and radio attacking the federal health-care program recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Florida Senate leaders have been working on a plan to not only implement the exchanges but to expand Medicaid, which Scott also said the state will refuse to do.

It all adds up to confusion over what Florida will do and, at least for now, points to likely federal control.

Scott, who says the government can’t run anything better or cheaper than private businesses do, cut his political teeth fighting President Obama’s health care law before it was even passed by Congress in 2010.

And he stepped up his campaign against the law on national television in the days since the high court issued its ruling last week.

“What has the government ever provided cheaper?” Scott asked Fox News host Greta Van Susteren last week. “They don’t. They always overpromise and underdeliver.”

Scott’s distrust of the federal government makes his decision to cede the state’s power to the White House – regardless of who’s occupying it – all the more curious.

Read the full story here.

Federal court tosses Virginia federal health care lawsuits

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

A federal appeals court tossed two Virginia lawsuits Thursday challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law’s insurance requirement, also known as the individual mandate.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed both lawsuits, ruling that neither the state’s attorney general Ken Cuccinelli or Liberty University had standing to challenge the law. The three-judge panel’s decision overturned a lower-court ruling invalidating the insurance requirement.

Thursday’s ruling now leaves an even score on other appellate rulings on the health care law. First, a three-judge panel in Cincinnati ruled in favor of the law. A more recent decision last month from an Atlanta three-judge panel ruling in a multi-state lawsuit headed by Florida that the individual mandate portion of the law was unconstitutional but left the remainder of the law intact.

And it heightens the importance of the Florida lawsuit, which observers say will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gov. Rick Scott, who made his fortune in the health care industry, launched his foray into politics more than two years ago with an effort to keep the proposed health care reforms from going into law. Scott is an outspoken critic of the law and once said fighting against it was one of the reasons he ran for governor.

Yesterday, lawmakers approved a request from Scott’s administration for a $3.4 billion grant drawn from the federal Affordable Care Act. The Legislative Budget Commission signed off on taking the cash to provide home visitation services to at-risk families.

Pensacola judge rules White House can carry on health care law, for now

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

President Obama’s administration can continue implementation of the federal health care act, a federal judge ordered today in the multi-state lawsuit led by Florida.

But, in a 20-page order issued today, Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida gave the White House one week to file its appeal.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, leading the charge in the case involving 25 other states, had insisted that Vinson’s ruling quashed the law and that the state no longer had to implement it.

But in his “clarification” issued today, Vinson today wrote that his January ruling striking down the federal law as unconstitutional did not force White House officials and states to stop implementing the law.

But, he wrote, that was because he expected the Justice Department to immediately file an appeal in the case, expected to ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The sooner this issue is finally decided by the Supreme Court, the better off the entire nation will be. And yet, it has been more than one month from the entry of my order and judgment and still the defendants have not filed their notice of appeal,” Vinson wrote.
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File an appeal already, Bondi tells White House

Thursday, February 24th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi called President Obama’s administration’s request for clarification in a ruling overturning the federal health care law a delay tactic and urged the president to file an appeal to move the case along to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bondi yesterday asked U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson to reject the Justice Department’s request for clarification of his ruling that the health care law is unconstitutional. Some states, including Florida, have halted implementation of the law while awaiting an ultimate decision by the Supreme Court.

“Department of Justice’s motion to clarify is merely an attempt to delay the process when the order clearly required a halt to implementation,” Bondi said in a statement.

Vinson’s order amounts to an injunction on the health care law in Florida and the 25 other states in the lawsuit, Bondi said.

“Our memorandum states that time is of the essence in this matter, and the Court should deny the defendants’ motion for clarification as well as their thinly disguised request for a stay,” she said. “Everyone knows this case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Department of Justice should join us in seeking an expedited appeals process. This issue is too important for delay, and we urge the
President to file an appeal in the appropriate appellate court, as was done in Virginia and Michigan. It is in the country’s best interest to present this case before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as possible.”

Lose weight, quit smoking or lose Medicaid benefits?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Sen. Joe Negron wants fat Floridians and smokers to get healthy or else.

Included in Negron’s revamp of the state-federal Medicaid program – which Negron will release tomorrow – is a component aimed at what senators are calling “personal responsibility.”

Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who helped craft Negron’s bill, said Medicaid patients have to take control of their health care just as he had to do when his doctor told him to lose weight.

“We’re saying that an individual who’s been diagnosed as morbidly obese needs to be on a medically-directed program of weight loss to manage that health care problem that could turn into an increased taxpayer liability. The same thing with smokers,” Gaetz said.

The bill would require smokers and alcoholics and drug addicts to get treatment, Gaetz said.

Negron said his bill would include incentives for Medicaid patients to lose weight, quit smoking and stop drinking but did not give details about what they would be.

If they don’t get thinner and put down the smokes, Negron said their coverage could be cut off.

“It’s possible,” Negron, R-Stuart, said.

He said the Medicaid program currently includes a seldom-used provision that would allow the state to boot patients out.

“If you are non-compliant with your appointments, if you reject medical advice, there is a system in place under current law, which is rarely used but it has been used, …where someone would no longer receive services,” Negron said.

Healthier Medicaid patients will save the state money, Gaetz and Negron said.

“They not only compromise the quality of that person’s life they compromise the efficacy of any medical care that might be rendered but they drive up costs that are then shifted to the friends and neighbors who are actually paying the health care bill for the individual who is smoking,” Gaetz said.

The system can no longer tolerate someone “who is an alcoholic and wants to offload the medical consequences of alcoholism to the taxpayers of Florida,” Gaetz said.

Speaker-to-be tells Crist to back off on federal health care reforms

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 by Dara Kam

House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon essentially gave Gov. Charlie Crist a cease and desist order telling the governor to quit enabling the federal government regarding health care reforms.

Cannon, R-Orlando, accused Crist of “commandeering of state insurance regulatory resources” by allowing executive agencies to begin implementing the federal health care reforms even as the state is suing White House agencies over them.

Read Cannon’s letter to Crist here.

Cannon’s demands could set up a possible showdown between the executive and legislative branches of government over the health care reforms, which Crist, the independent candidate in the U.S. Senate race, says he supports in part.

Cannon gave Crist until Nov. 15 to tell him how much the state is spending on workers and other resources to comply with the reforms and told him that Crist will need the legislature’s approval before taking any further action.

Cannon complains in the letter to Crist that the Office of Insurance Regulation is jumpstarting new insurance regulations by developing data systems. But that office is overseen by not just Crist. He and the Florida Cabinet – including Attorney General Bill McCollum, who filed the lawsuit over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act – make up the Financial Services Commission that’s in charge of OIR.

Incoming Senate Prez Haridopolos winds up “broken Medicaid” tour

Friday, August 6th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Senate President-to-be Mike Haridopolos wrapped up a three-day tour of Florida highlighting one of his priorities when he takes over the chamber in November: a total overhaul of the state Medicaid system, which he calls broken.

Haridopolos toured cities from Miami to Tallahassee by bus, flanked by GOP Senate leaders Don Gaetz of Niceville and Joe Negron of Stuart, as well as Haridopolos’ wife Stephanie, a family practice doctor in their Melbourne hometown.

It’s not unusual for new chamber leaders to travel around the state to pump themselves up before taking the helm.

Former Senate President Ken Pruitt made a sweep of Florida in a little yellow school bus championing the Bright Futures scholarship for two years before taking over the chamber in 2006.

Haridopolos wants the federal government to approve a Medicaid waiver for Florida that would allow the state to place all of the state’s 2.7 million Medicaid recipients into managed care. It’s unlikely that Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration would approve such a maneuver, especially given Haridopolos’ and crew’s repeated bashing of federal health care reforms and their support for Attorney General Bill McCollum’s lawsuit against the White House regarding the new health care law.

Expect a major component of Haridopolos’ Medicaid revamp to include tort reform.

He told reporters today that a major problem for Medicaid providers such as hospitals is the high cost of medical malpractice insurance.

“What we’ve consistently heard during these round table discussions is that doctors who have protections against malpractice lawsuits have the ability to deliver a higher quality of care to their patients,” Haridopolos said.

Lawson: Florida GOP leaders ‘psychologically intoxicated’ over health care reform

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Bill McCollum’s lawsuit against Democrat-controlled Congress and President Barack Obama’s administration has sparked a political feud not only in the nation’s Capitol but in the state’s as well.

Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson took offense at Senate President Jeff Atwater’s congratulatory press release lauding McCollum’s legal disparaging of the president’s health care reform.

The president’s office issued an unusually partisan release entitled “Florida Senate Leaders Support AG McCollum’s Legal Challenge to Unprecedented and Unconstitutional Government Health Care Scheme.”

The GOP leaders are “like little boys who are playing marbles and the ones who lost went home,” Lawson, D-Tallahassee said.

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Mavericky Meek: Crist not fit to lead

Friday, January 8th, 2010 by Dara Kam

meekU.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek held a roundtable with the Capitol press corps this morning and came out swinging at Gov. Charlie Crist.

Meek, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, slammed Crist, a Republican who’s losing traction in a GOP primary against former House Speaker Marco Rubio, for his turn-around on abortion and his failed health care program that has been ignored by uninsured Floridians.

“Overall I think the governor’s a very nice person,” Meek, a former state legislator who is in his fourth term in Congress, began. “I don’t think he’s prepared to lead this state in the United States Senate. One, he doesn’t like to make a decision. Two, he’s very vague. And three, I believe he’s more politician than leader.”

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Sink still mum on public option

Friday, September 11th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink refused to say whether she supports Congressional Democrats’ government-backed health insurance proposal, known as the “public option,” despite her GOP gubernatorial opponent Attorney General Bill McCollum’s demands.

Attorney General Bill McCollum, the presumptive GOP candidate for governor, pilloried President Barack Obama’s and the Democrats’ public option and challenged Sink state her position on the issue.

Sink, however, maintained her neutrality but hammered on the Medicaid portion of the health care reforms. She said she would not support anything that increased the state’s share of Medicaid payments, something that McCollum, as her campaign pointed out earlier this week, did numerous times during his long tenure in Congress.

Actblue.com shows support for public option – with campaign cash

Thursday, August 20th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Actblue.com launched a website to urge contributors to give to Democratic Congressmen who back a public health care option despite the toll the health care reforms have taken on President Barack Obama’s popularity here in Florida.

The organization’s website Actblue.com claims to have raised nearly $250,000 from more than 4,000 supporters for Democrats.

“Democratic members of Congress need to understand that a healthcare reform bill with a Public Option is simply not an option– it’s a requirement. The congressmembers on this list have said in no uncertain terms that they will not vote for a bill without a public option all the way through Conference. That takes courage, and we need to show them how much we appreciate them for doing so,” the website urges.

Recipients include Floridian U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler of Delray Beach, Corrine Brown of Jacksonville and Alcee Hastings of Miramar. Wexler and Hastings held a jam-packed health care town hall meeting in Delray Beach today.

Wexler received $3,610 from the site. Brown pulled in $3,306 and Hastings $3,195.

Obama popularity plummets 11 points, Q-poll finds; health reform a no-go

Thursday, August 20th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Worries about President Obama’s health-care proposals have contributed to his plummeting popularity among Floridians, according to poll results released Thursday, leaving him in a virtual tie between those who approve and disapprove of his performance.

Obama’s 47-percent approval rating among likely Florida voters was the lowest in the nation of any poll conducted by Quinnipiac University. The president’s approval rating in Florida dropped 11 points since June, the poll found.

In Thursday’s results, 48 percent of likely Florida voters disapproved of Obama’s performance. The survey had a margin of error of 3 percent.

The poll also found that nearly three out of four Floridians don’t trust Obama to keep his promise to reform health care without increasing the federal budget deficit.

On the other hand, the poll found that a majority of voters — 58 to 36 percent — support creating a government-backed health insurance plan to compete with private insurers, despite protests from opponents who liken the concept to socialism.

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