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Those Double-Digit Health Insurance Rate Hikes in Florida? Blame State GOP.

| August 7, 2014

Bill Nelson says it was the Florida Legislature's 'callous decision' to pass a law that forbids regulating health insurance rates. (Facebook)

Bill Nelson says it was the Florida Legislature’s ‘callous decision’ to pass a law that forbids regulating health insurance rates. (Facebook)

By Bill Nelson

The state is not doing its job to protect consumers from health insurance rate hikes. After passing up billions of dollars from the federal government for the state to expand Medicaid, Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature callously enacted a new law that, in essence, prevents the state’s insurance commissioner from regulating health insurance rates.

The law, which state lawmakers passed and the governor signed, stripped the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation of an important responsibility: the authority to approve, modify or reject rate hikes by health insurance companies.


I call it a callous decision, in part, because now the governor and some of those same legislators are poised to blame Obamacare for the coming rate increases.

Florida once had some of the strongest state laws governing insurance. Now — as a result of the new state law — the commissioner is little more than a rubber stamp on health insurance rates.

When the Legislature passed this bill, I wrote to the governor and asked him to veto it. He did not.

Meantime, other states preserved their ability to regulate the cost of insurance. In Connecticut, for example, the two insurers in that state’s health insurance exchange proposed double-digit increases for the coming year. One insurer had its rate request rejected, while the other was allowed only a 3 percent bump.

context floridaThat’s why I am so disappointed when I read news accounts that say Republicans now intend to blame potential health insurance rate increases in Florida and elsewhere on Obamacare.

If the governor and the Republic-controlled Legislature want someone to blame, they need look no further than the mirror.

They refused to accept some $51 billion to expand Medicaid. They passed onerous requirements on Obamacare navigators to try to keep them from helping Floridians find and purchase affordable coverage. And they passed the law shackling the insurance regulator on rates.

According to recent reports, these premium increases are expected to be a key talking point for Republicans in Florida and beyond as they hope to retake the U.S. Senate.

It all strikes me as an unconscionable deception for which the people pay.

Bill Nelson is Florida’s senior senator, serving since 2001. He served as Florida’s insurance commissioner from 1995 to 2001.

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26 Responses for “Those Double-Digit Health Insurance Rate Hikes in Florida? Blame State GOP.”

  1. Sherry Epley says:

    An excellent article. RATE HIKES are exactly what happens when there is no regulation. . . we consumers get the shaft while profits go higher and higher!

    BCBS raised their rates EVERY year of our policy, BEFORE the ACA was implemented, but much more after Rick Scott and his cronies in the Florida legislature TOOK AWAY the ability of the insurance commissioner to regulate policy premium rates. The Florida insurance commissioner did a reasonable job of keeping rates under control for many, many years. I remember during my days as an underwriter for Prudential in the 1970’s, the Florida state insurance commissioner had the power to require proof that rate hikes were necessary and to require a reduction in rates before allowing Prudential to continue to provide coverage in Florida.

    Rick Scott and his buddies in the legislature need to go! Please, let’s get out the vote and have them gone after the next elections!

  2. Born n raised Flagler says:

    Disagree of who is over all to blame. I sense you have a biased opinion and are letting your bias reflect in your work.

  3. Flatsflyer says:

    Republicans / Conservatives to put it very simply want all people to be without health insurance because they want evryone to die young and poor. All the shit they spewed about “Death Panels” was just smoke and mirrors to hide their real agenda. The Fraudster lead this effort and if you keep an eye on his health care investments you will see how he positioned himself for life. He will loose the November election on this single issue, his other crimes will not even matter.

  4. Katie O'Reilly says:

    What about the monies that are being refunded to policy holders because the insurance companies charge too much over what they are allowed to make in profits?

  5. Genie says:

    OMG…..Is this the best our politicians can do???? There was a time, many years ago, when Bill Nelson produced something of value for the people of Florida.

    Those days are long gone, as they are for too many in Washington, on BOTH SIDES of the aisle. He is the poster child for term limits. They all should be term limited for doing what they have done to this country, to the people of this country.

    Senator Nelson, that Medicaid has strings. It is not FREE MONEY. It comes at a cost; we have to pay it back, with WHAT MONEY???

    If I hear ONE MORE politician continue to blame the other…. Nelson is one who has sitting back for decades seeing this problem and doing NOTHING about it. He is one of the CAUSES, on both sides.

    Folks, ask Senator Nelson what HE is doing to fix this. Stop listening to the “blame game” and demand answers. Vote them OUT. They don’t deserve to be reelected for what they have all done to our families.

    • Linda Rosenthal says:

      You are absolutely wrong about the Medicaid funds – check your facts – this is money that the state has paid to the federal gov’t and will be just getting it back to help the working poor have health insurance.

  6. Genie says:

    OMG, if I hear one more politician try and blame the other…

    Senator Nelson, you have been in Washington for decades. There was a time when you brought something of value to the people of Florida, but that was many, many, many years ago. You are now the poster child for term limits.

    WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO FIX THIS PROBLEM? Nothing.

    Folks, Medicaid is not free. It comes with a cost and must be paid back. With WHAT MONEY? We can’t pay our Medicaid bills now. We have rate hike hearings on everything and it hasn’t kept the costs down. Just look at our utility bills, and how many cannot pay them. Just look at how many here in Flagler are now sleeping in the woods, with children.

    We get the government we deserve. Too many are not paying attention, not voting or voting for people because charm and not experience. Nobody should be left in Washington all these years, nobody. How many times has Senator Nelson been to Flagler County? When was the last time he was here? Not staff, but the Senator? YOU HAVE TO HOLD HIM ACCOUNTABLE, or you will continue to see the same.

    This blame game has to stop, most especially from the old Senate War Horses like Senator Nelson and those who have been in Congress for decades.

    If this is the best he has to offer us, he and all the others on both sides who are a part of the problem and have done NOTHING must be voted out of office. They have done this to our families, NOT Gov. Scott.

    Too many in Congress are not helping the American people. We can enforce the term limits by voting them out after a couple of terms in office. Stop the politics, please. Put somebody in that job who can do it without blaming others.

    We’re spending BILLIONS in federal dollars to bring illegals to this country and doing NOTHING to help our own people. That is reason enough to vote them out.

    • A.S.F. says:

      Genie–Medicare is also not free. And the bulk of the people who are on it are getting much more out of it than they put into it. And some of these folks are women who never worked and, therefore, never contributed monetarily to the fund at all–and women live longer than men, on the hold. So, a case could be made that many of the people who complain the most about other “takers” who are draining the system have become, by their own definition, takers who are draining the system. Sometimes, sacrifices must be made so we can all help each other. Applying one set of standards to yourself and another to others that you like to conveniently label as the entire problem is prejudicial and simply not true. Medicare is bankrupting us more quickly than anything else. Social Security has long been the “elephant in the room.” What kind of sacrifices and changes are YOU willing to make, Genie, if , in fact, you (or the group you identify with) are contributing to the problem as much (or more) than any one else? How can YOU (and your’s) become more “accountable?”

    • Jon Hardison says:

      I sat with Nelson right here in Flagler County just a few years ago. Spoke to him personally. You asked so I thought I’d answer. I have pictures if you need proof.

  7. Mark says:

    How ridiculous for the guy who cast the deciding vote on Obamacare to try to deflect the blame to republicans in the Legislature who didnt even vote on it.

    Come on bill. Your oxygen levels arevlow again. Thisnis freaking absurd

  8. Jon Hardison says:

    Ah blame. If we had a dollar…
    Don’t blame Nelson or Scott or Obama. Blame Americans. Sitting on our couches, covered in Cheetos powder and Budweiser drippings, honestly thinking ANYTHING the mass media does doesn’t come with an agenda. We all have an agenda. We’re just too damned lazy to do anything other than grab our talking points from the evening news and pick a side. We have what we deserve and we won’t take the initiative to change it until the pain is so intense we have no other choice.

    No government should be red or blue. They should be kept balanced at all times. It’s the only way we get the least bit of protection but instead we have a red run legislature. Who are we going to blame for that? Hmmm?

    Genie: Yes, by all means, complain about “BLAME” while writing “They have done this to our families, NOT Gov. Scott.” If the like button was still working, I’m sure your doubled-comments would both be on fire right now. LOL! You’re right. Scott didn’t do this. You did. I did. We all did and continue to every day we do NOTHING!

    Yes, this is a note to self as well. I’m getting off the couch cuz this is bullshit and I’m done leaving it to someone else.

    Peace.

  9. Genie says:

    Seriously….for those who don’t vote because they say they don’t understand…do you not realize that YOU are responsible for the government we have?

    Read a newspaper once in awhile, look at Flagler Live and the issues he covers. You don’t have to work real hard to find both sides of an issue. Look at the record of the politician. Call his office and ask them what they are doing about the problem. Take an interest.

    This is the first article I have read on Flagler Live from Sen. Nelson and I am doubting highly that he even wrote it himself. And what’s he doing? HE’S BLAMING THE OTHER GUY and not telling you what he’s doing to make it better.

    We are stuck with politicians, BOTH SIDES, who keep getting re-elected because people won’t ask them the tough questions, in many cases don’t even know the NAMES of those who represent them, and won’t vote them out.

    We have to do something about this. It’s not been good for the country. We have got to do better. Our elected officials have got to do better.

  10. BeachcomberT says:

    Florida’s “regulation” of the insurance industry has been a joke for years. Not surprising Scott and the legislature are using Obamacare as a scapegoat for their own unwillingness to offend the big donors in the insurance industry.

  11. A.S.F. says:

    Let’s wait and see how many of the politicians and political operatives who have de-clawed the Insurance Commissioner’s office are beholden to Insurance Company lobbyists in some way–or how many will end up working for Florida Blue Cross or end up sitting on its board when they leave their “political” jobs.

    • Jon Hardison says:

      Why wait? Political donations are public record. We could be doing this right now. We could have been doing it when they were running for office. Hell, if we don’t wait we might even find something questionable enough to for someone out, changing the face of our legislature and scaring everyone that remains straight.

  12. m&m says:

    This is a result of the stupid supporters of OBAMA CARE CRAP.. As usual, steeling from the people who WORKED and paid taxes and giving it to the dead beats who mooch off society..

    • Jon Hardison says:

      I’ve always worked and paid taxes and had been uninsured for 14 years. The additional $1000 wasn’t in the budget. Tell me what, exactly, I mooched from you. My mother-in-law worked her entire life and still does. She was diagnosed with cancer and given a 2% chance of making it 5 years. She’s still alive now, nearly 9 years later, but couldn’t have insurance until the ACA was passed. Why don’t you tell me what she mooched from you. Hmmm? Her husband had a major heart attack and paid over $60K for his treatment with a payment plan he was able to make good on because he works his ass off. He too couldn’t have insurance until the passage of the ACA. He was covered when he had his second heart attack and a quad bypass. Why don’t you explain to me Mr. M&M what in god’s name he ever took from you!

      It’s thinking like this, so fearful of that one moocher that you’re not just willing to kill my hard working family… You’re proud to do it. America thanks you. (*$^#*&^*$&%#(#!!!!!)

  13. PC LOVER says:

    SURE IT WAS ALL THE REPUBLICANS FAULT !! LOL And thats your unbiased opinion!

  14. karma says:

    I wonder who the New York State Politicians will blame for the health care cost increases up to 28%.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/03/nyregion/health-plans-in-exchange-face-rises-in-2015-rates.html?_r=0
    And now we learn millions of uninsured Americans will be exempt from ObamaCare penalties in 2016. More sick people using the law and less healthy people paying in. You can not blame the insurance companies for raising their rates. I am sure the middle class will end up footing the bill.

  15. rickg says:

    You are correct @genie… we voters in Florida get what we deserve…. Legislature, Cabinet, Governorship all Republican since 1998… Problems occur and the Rs do nothing. Tax cuts are not the only answer. The Rs have put this state in the condition we now find it… keep voting that way and we’ll eventually be even more irrelevant.

  16. Jon Hardison says:

    Here’s a question about this political football: My understanding is that there’s actually clause in the ACA that requires 80/20 use. In other words, For every dollar you pay for your policy, you must use $0.80. So if I pay $800 a month, or $9600 in a year, the insurer is able to keep $1,920. This leaves $7680 for medical services over the course of the year. My understanding of this clause is if, at the end of the year, I have not used that $7680, the unused portion must be returned to me. Is this how everyone else is reading the law?

    If this is, in fact, the case, is it not more important for us to have a better grasp of how medical costs are trending and why? (Insurers control costs BTW. I expect the FTC to finally catch on eventually.)

    A 17% price increase is still absolutely ridiculous. Even if you’re not becoming ill, and as a result, getting a refund for underuse. It’s more money out of every family’s pocket where they need it, and shifts the recipient of interest on what I’d presume is hundreds of millions of dollars in Florida alone out of the hands of the people.

    So I guess I’m asking if 80/20 is going to be an effective additional protection for the people, and if it is, isn’t all this blame and posturing just another play for votes?

    To be clear, I think Scott is a turd and the State Legislature gets paid by us to further the interests of, well, not us. I commend Nelson for bringing up the results of previous legislation to illustrate the issue’s cause. You’re welcome to read it as partizan blame. I don’t. Did the legislature do what he said that did or not? If they did… HE GETS TO BEAT THEM OVER THE HEAD WITH IT ALL DAY LONG! You don’t get to call it the blame game when he’s reminding us of a truth that’s inconvenient to your cause. He’s educating his constituents. I appreciate that.

    This comment is too long so I’m going to shut up and go to bed. Just something to think about. ;-)

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