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

| October 27, 2016

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)

Note: this piece originally ran two years ago, but has been getting renewed attention in light of the expected increases in Obamacare premiums. It is just as accurate today and provides valuable context to the ongoing discussion.

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.

42 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.


    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.


  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%.
    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. ;-)

  17. Karakora says:

    Born n raised Flagler: “Biased opinion” is redundant–opinions are BY DEFINITION one-sided. I’m quite certain you don’t mind someone else’s bias if it happens to match yours.

  18. HRguy66 says:

    First off, we do not pay a State taxes in Florida, we do pay Federal; taxes. That medicaid bill would have given the State millions of Federal tax dollars back to help keep Medicare premiums low; but the law limiting regulation in insurance killed the chance for elected State regulators to do their job , by saying no to an insurer who hike their rates that high. Republican Majorities in this State and Governor Scott are directly responsible for these hikes. You read, but you can not see the truth when it is there and their voting and veto records are public record. Senator Nelson may have been there a long time, but he has continually fought for all Floridians his whole career.

  19. HRguy66 says:

    I meant the we would have gotten back would have helped keep Medicaid cost lower.

  20. hmmmm says:

    Lets vote like we did up north so it can be just like home. Why did we move again?

  21. Recovering Liberal says:

    While the quality of medical care has greatly increased over the past 50 years, so has the cost. Some of those cost are inherent in the increased quality (we paid nothing for life saving CATSCANS when I was a kid….because they did not exist!!). That said, some of the increases are due to excess litigation. Some litigation is ok, but there should be limits on liability – that would or SHOULD lower the cost of mal-practice insurance. That will not return the cost to 1960 levels, but will cut it back SOME. We have, as it turns out, more lawyers per capita than other developed countries. Perhaps if we shut down about half of our Law Schools and turned them into Med schools, we might see less litigation and more Doctors. More Doctors, like having ‘more’ of anything, would probably mean lower prices and costs. I know it will not happen, neither the AMA or the Bar Association would approve. Does not mean it would not work.

  22. palmcoaster says:

    Always the obstructionist GOP legislators and Scott manipulating and approving laws to screw us all and the good programs created to help the millions without health preventive care by and blaming Obama.
    GOP the party of NO to the middle class and poor of America.

  23. Barry Hartmann says:

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

  24. Concerned Citizen says:

    I don’t fault one party for the current health care mess I fault both. Our country was not ready for mandated Health Care coverage. Yet it was ram rodded thru by a Democrat President hoping to leave a legacy.

    Even his sales man admitted that it was a plan full of errors yet it was pretty much shoved down congress throats.

    Enter the Republicans who want to promote rate hikes because they back a lot of the insurance companies involved.

    Our current “mandated health care” is so pricey that it’s cheaper for me as a single person with no dependents to pay the “Obama Fine” at tax time. And of course fervently hope I don’t get sick.

    It’s a sad state of affairs when a person like myself works 40 hours a week and then some but yet can’t qualify for assistance at times cause I make just enough or can’t get health care cause it’s a choice of a monthly premium payment or keeping a roof over my head.

    How do we fix this? Unfortunately the main answer is at the polls. Get new people in office who aren’t tied into big business and insist on change. It all starts with us…

  25. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    I think the real moochers here are the boomers and seniors that sit back and suck money out of the working class through social security and Medicare while whining about welfare queens and people using the aca to actually get insurance. You have no issues whatsoever with milking us dry while supporting candidates hell bent on wrecking those same programs in the long term. I laughed when I heard trump say vote now and early because you might die before the election, because it embodies the exact mindset you losers have – screw everyone else, give me mine and to hell with the long term consequences. Your views on social programs, the environment, and future generations are fueled by your selfish, narcissistic, and whiney fygm mentality and you’ve decided that you hate Clintons more than you love the future of America, so you’re trump trump trump. And to quote that Cheeto colored sex offending anti-Semite, that’s sad!

  26. Katie Semore says:

    Recovering Liberal, what would you set the limit at for malpractice if you went into a hospital for knee repair surgery and the doctor was confused and thought you were the patient admitted to have a leg amputated and when you woke up you discovered your leg had been cut off above your bad knee? Limits should be set in the courts by judges and juries in my opinion.

  27. rst says:

    Rick Scott was dead set on doing everything in his, and the republican majority, power to dismantle and discredit ANYTHING the President and the democrats passed. They did this for a specific purpose: I you can’t beat them honorably in an election, then sabotage them and their legislation anyway possible; even at the cost to the taxpayer. I’ve said this a thousand times: YOU DESERVE EXACTLY WHAT YOU VOTE FOR! Go Blue!!!

  28. PeachesMcGee says:

    There’s some skeletons in the governor’s closet.

    Anyone care to guess what industry?

  29. Ws says:

    I am getting excited for when Trump tells Obama”you’re fired”! The good news is it’s almost time.GO TRUMP!

  30. usefulidiot says:

    Cuba has free health care, perhaps we can learn from their doctrine. Single payer health care systems are a great idea. Just ask the patients in Great Britain. Edward R. Annis who was president of the AMA during the time when JFK pushed laws that began the erosion of the doctor/patient relationship, predicted this hot mess with the deceptively named “affordable care act” Gotta know when to say “enough is enough “. Solutions? Allow as much competition as possible between insurance carriers – remove the barriers on state and regional restrictions. Tort reform would help. Gorgon and Grogan “for the sheeple” need to take their hands out of the premium cookie jar. Freedom isn’t free and neither is health care but the taxes on the equipment and supplies should be reduced. Medical savings accounts would help one prepare as well. Seriously, as a nation this trajectory must be altered because the way that we are headed, Fidel might have us beat :(

  31. TigerKim says:

    NOT JUST Florida. Idaho, and I venture to guess every other Red State. Even though Idaho DID make its own regional health exchange which is wonderful; they refuse to expand Medicaid and let 70K people hanging in limbo. Disgraceful behavior! Idaho’s Butch Otter was advised by 3 consultants that taking the Fed funds was THE BEST way to solve the problem & STILL he cannot do THE RIGHT THING. I hope he loses his seat over this.

  32. palmcoaster says:

    Well said RS…this is what is taking our country into financial turmoil the stagnation created by Republicans when they loose the election become the party of NO and their obstructionism and mind set to undermine the elected Democrat POTUS is their only goal. Unlike when Republicans were in the WH Regan and Bush father and so the DEM Congress and Senate approved their nominations and declarations. Including the devastating and useless Iraq War. Even Edward Kenned worked with them and Hillary as well. Shame on the GOP party of NO because they do not work for the people but against.

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