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4 posts from November 15, 2013

November 15, 2013

Sorry, Obamacare haters: 300k FL Blue customers no longer 'losing' insurance policies for 2014


Obamacare haters should have taken an insurance policy out on their criticisms.

They'd be rich now that the president has helped stop the public-relations damage that stemmed from millions of health insurance-company cancellation notices sent to people in the individual-market since Oct. 1, when the Affordable Care Act started to kick in. The grace period: about a year. After that, we'll have to see.

In Florida, Florida Blue sent out about 300,000 such notices (with more now in the mail). And it quickly became a rallying cry for Florida Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott:

“The President’s healthcare law is causing hundreds of thousands of Floridians to lose their health insurance plans. The White House should focus on helping these families, not Medicaid, which our state just recently reformed to be more flexible, accessible and cost-conscious,” Scott said in a recent statement. “Unfortunately, the White House’s politics of deflection and distraction won’t give anyone their healthcare back, even after the president promised that if they liked their plans, they could keep them.”

Well, the president might have listened. Or Florida Blue did.

According to the state's insurance commissioner, the insurance company is holding off on the cancellations. It should be noted as well that these cancellations did not mean people were going with or went without coverage. They were being shifted over into Affordable Care Act-compliant (that is, richer and, in some cases, more expensive plans).

Here's FL Health Watch:

"On the heels of the President's announcement, Florida Blue agreed to allow individual members to continue their existing health care coverage or explore new plan options under the ACA.  Those who previously received cancellation letters from the insurer will get new ones offering them the option to remain on their existing plan through 2014 if they choose.  

"The company said it will continue to offer guidance to its customers related to their healthcare options. The member contact number is 1-800-FLA-BLUE (1-800-352-2583).

"So now that the president has decided to, as Scott said, "focus" on these families, will Scott focus on the 848,000 Floridians who are eligible for Medicaid under Obamacare -- but only if the state agreed to expand the program?"

Of course, none of this means Obamacare criticisms are over. The disaster of a rollout with the feckless website, anemic enrollment figures and the fib that people who liked their plans could keep them will haunt the president and the program.

Also, there's the fact that in basically calling for a one-year delay in Obamacare, the president appears to be legislating from the executive branch. And that can have spooky consequences. Here's the conservative Townhall on that.

Lobbyists, take note: Miami-Dade mayor tightens visitor rules


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has tweaked procedures for visitors to enter his office on the 29th floor of County Hall.

Before, all visitors who were not county employees had to fill out a sign-in sheet. Now they will also have to wear a visitor's badge.

The policy change is intended to beef up transparency and security, the mayor's office said.

But — privately at least — word among the robust Miami-Dade lobbying corps is that the move was in response to having some in their ranks get too comfortable on the 29th floor.

The mayor's office has been heavily lobbied recently by both sides vying for a lucrative sewer-repairs contract that has become mired in controversy. Bidders AECOM Technical Services and CH2M Hill have hired lobbyists close to Gimenez and his past political campaigns.

Gimenez said only that no particular incident prompted the procedural review.

"We wanted to tighten up on who was coming in and all that," he said.

Miami's Jackson Health System, once near bankruptcy, ends year with $45 million surplus


On the heels of a landslide Election Day victory that will send $830 million in taxpayer funds to Jackson Health System for upgrades and new facilities, administrators announced this week that Miami-Dade’s public hospital network closed the year ending Sept. 30 with an unaudited but better-than-expected budget surplus of more than $45 million.

The positive financial finish marks the second consecutive year that Jackson has earned a surplus after an era of hemorrhaging cash, to the tune of about $419 million from 2008 to 2011.

“Like we said, we expected to have a strong year in 2013,’’ Chief Executive Carlos Migoya said Thursday at a meeting of the Public Health Trust that runs Jackson. “This proves the case.’’

But there are challenges ahead for the taxpayer-owned hospital system, Migoya and others acknowledged.

For the coming year, Jackson administrators have projected a smaller surplus of about $11 million — and that depends on the outcome of a Dec. 5 impasse hearing by the Miami-Dade County Commission, which is expected to decide whether Jackson’s estimated 10,000 employees will continue to contribute 5 percent of their base pay toward group healthcare costs.

More here.

Charlie Crist's first cash haul: $872k in 13 days (includes a Jeb-ite in the Crist pile)


Former Gov. Charlie Crist still has a Midas touch for fundraising even though he's in his second political party (now a Democrat after being an independent and a Republican), having pulled in $812,000 $872,000 between  Nov. 4 and Nov. 16.**

Caveats: It's soft money (i.e., limitless un-capped cash one can raise from a donor or a few donors) contributed to his committee, Charlie Crist for Florida. The campaign "hard" money has yet to be reported. And Gov. Rick Scott is still the soft-money king and plans to have as much as $100 million to spend. Crist hopes to have at least half of that amount.

Also, it will be tough for Crist to keep pace. He's not a current office holder, so he lacks that leverage. And now some people affiliated with Sen. Bill Nelson are trying to keep the door open for the senior Democrat (who has told time and again that he doesn't want to run and doesn't intend to), but in doing so, the Nelsonites run the risk of freezing some Florida and DC donations to Crist, the Democrats' frontrunner.

Of interest: There's a Jeb Bush-ite in the Crist donor pile: David Rancourt, former Bush insider and now-retired lobbyist. Most of Crist's money is from trial lawyers because he is, well, a trial lawyer and they're among the deepest pockets for Democrats

**Note: Between the time we posted this and noon, Crist's folks added four more contributions, boosting the total. Here's the new list:

Barbara Stiefel  $100,000
Sheldon J. Schlessinger P.A.  $  25,000
Schlesinger Law Offices, P.A.  $  25,000
Mayville and Associates  $    5,000
James Savko  $    5,000
Rosalie Danbury  $100,000
William Merlin, Jr.  $  10,000
The Yerrid Law Firm  $  10,000
Francoise Haasch-Jones  $    4,000
George Chandler  $    1,000
Rosalie Danbury  $  50,000
William Andrew Haggard  $100,000
David Rancourt  $  50,000
Grossman Roth, P.A.  $250,000
Oakland Investments, Inc.  $  25,000
John Uustall  $  25,000
Michael Cohen  $  10,000
Michael Moskowitz  $    5,000
Timothy Ritvo  $    2,000
Robert Kelley  $  25,000
Robert O'Neil  $  10,000
Moskowitz, Mandell,   $    5,000
Las Olas Recovery, LLC  $    5,000
Bob Poe  $  25,000